Fort Myers High School Robotics Team prepares for state championship

Sedona Stewart, Contributing Writer

A local robotics team is preparing for a competition far, far away – the FIRST® Robotics World Championships in Houston, Texas.

Java the Hutts is a team of high school students, two of which are dual-enrolled at FGCU, from the Fort Myers area. They’ve swept local and state championships of the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), and now have their eyes on the grand prize- being the highest-ranking high school robotics team in the world.

According to the Java the Hutts website, FIRST® is a nonprofit organization dedicated to growing the next generation of science and technology leaders in the workforce by engaging them in robotics.

Java the Hutts is one of the 49 teams that competed in the challenge and is one of three in the state that is moving onto the World Championships on April 20th.

The prize-winning robot is adept at solving the puzzles presented in each challenge, using mechanical elements designed and assembled by the team to quickly move objects around a maze- setting multiple state records on the way.

Building the robot has been a lengthy endeavor. “The team has probably at least 300 hours working on the robot itself,” said Robert Stewart, a member of the robotics team and sophomore at Bonita Springs High School.

But they couldn’t do it alone: The Java the Hutts team is moving on to the World Championships not just through the skill of their robot and programmers, but the many hours of community service and outreach they put in as well.

At the State Championships, the team won the Inspire Award, given to the FTC team with the most hours of outreach and community service.

To accomplish this, in the months spent preparing for competitions and meets, Java the Hutts gave demonstrations in more than 30 outreach activities at community events like a day at Golisano Children’s Hospital and the Edison & Ford Estates Holiday Nights celebration.

With the team’s sponsor, the I Will Mentorship Foundation, Java the Hutts also spent hours working with other STEM-focused teams and students to educate and mentor them on robotics and teamwork.

Kyle Keene, a member of the team, a dual-enrolled freshman at FGCU, and a junior at Fort Myers High School, says that the community service the team does is incredibly rewarding.

“The biggest thing I’ve gotten out of community service work is seeing the people that we get to show robotics to. A lot of the kids we do outreach to are underprivileged and don’t really have access to STEM materials. It’s always good to see their faces when they say, ‘oh wow, this is a really cool robot.’ This can be for them, it’s not just for more privileged people.”

The team is currently raising money for the trip to Houston and is asking the community for support through GoFundMe. They have raised $6,675 of their $20,000 goal.