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CavBots — Student Robotics Team

“I liked that this is a club sport where all skill levels are welcomed, technical or non-technical,” explains Haygood.

In the world of competitive high school robotics, the calendar starts with First Robotics Competition’s (FRC) formal announcement of the official “new robotic challenge.” Then, teams from all around the world have six weeks to design, build and program their robot for the upcoming competition circuit.

Texas Torque, a national elite award-winning intra-district competitive robotics team from The Woodlands College Park High School, works out of a posh, basketball court size robotics lab on campus. This team is comprised primarily of members of the school’s prestigious and competitive Academy of Science & Technology. Torque strives to be role models in the robotics community by also using their skills to help other teams.

When the CavBots, a group of students from the high school, asked for help to build their own robot, Torque welcomed them into their lab with a warm, Texas-sized hug. Well, that was easy, the CavBots thought. There was, however, one problem. FRC requires each team have a teacher sponsor.

With a regional competition in Del Rio, Texas fast approaching, the CavBots were in a pickle — without a teacher sponsor, they could not compete. Word got around fast and Advanced Placement Human Geography teacher Bobby McKnight and English/Advanced Placement Research teacher James Haygood offered up their time and energy to sponsor and mentor their team. Friends for years, these two teachers didn’t quite know what this new endeavor would entail, but they knew they couldn’t resist helping this eager group of students build a machine.

“I liked that this is a club sport where all skill levels are welcomed, technical or non-technical,” explains Haygood. “It’s very egalitarian as team members are encouraged to bring any skills they already have, like programming, electronics, metalworking, graphic design, web creation, public speaking — even safety design and planning to the table.”

For Haygood and McKnight there was a lot to catch up on—intense after-school building and programming time, weekend practicing time and the behemoth organization of the three competitions themselves—and all of this jammed into a one-month span.

“Each day, the kids’ passion and talent would blow us away,” smiles McKnight.

With the help of McKnight, Haygood and Texas Torque, the CavBots designed and built their robot “Monolith” to find and place large round balls into cargo containers and climb a platform (this year’s FRC’s challenge).

It has been a whirlwind year for the CavBots who competed regionally against 50 other teams in Del Rio and won the coveted “Rookie All Star”! This win qualified them for the State Competition in Austin where they subsequently won the “Rookie Inspiration Award” which then qualified them for Worlds in Houston.

“We could not have done it without the help of the amazing parents,” smiles Haygood.

These dedicated teachers beamed with pride as they bookended the single-file line of CavBots walking across the beautiful city of Austin taking turns carrying Monolith like a Heisman trophy to the hotel. It was a special night and year this outstanding team and teaching duo will never forget!

The Woodlander salutes James Haygood and Bobby McKnight’s inspiring leadership and wishes the CavBots (and Texas Torque) the best competing on the robotics competition circuit this fall!