Llano Estacado RoboRaiders Advance to Nationals

Written by Megan Robare

Texas Tech Mentors High School Students in Robotics Competition

With the help of Texas Tech University engineering student mentors, the Llano Estacado RoboRaiders are poised to advance to the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Championship April 15-17 in Atlanta.

The team advanced after a win at the 2010 J.C. Penney Dallas FIRST Robotics regional competition held in March at Southern Methodist University.

The competition challenged 57 teams from seven states and Mexico to build a robot that could compete in a unique robotics game called Breakaway. The game included aspects of soccer in which the robots were required to kick, shoot or throw soccer balls into a net while battling other competition robots.

Gina Munch, a Texas Tech mentor for the RoboRaiders, said one of the unique features of the team is that no experience is required. She said she decided to join to learn more about robotics, how to use power tools and compete in different challenges.

“The no-experience policy also brings in high school students that otherwise would have self-selected out of robotics, engineering and science,” Munch said. “It shows them that all you need is a drive and willingness to learn.”

Robert Abbe, a sophomore at Lubbock High School said he joined RoboRaiders as a freshman in 2008. He said the program is great for introducing science and math and that middle and high school students should think about joining.

“We have access to the Texas Tech shops and resources that we couldn’t get in the high school competitions plus, the seasoned advice of the college students,” Abbe said.

The team went on to compete in the seventh annual FIRST Robotics regional competition held March 26 at the University of Denver’s Magness Arena. Along with making it to the quarterfinals, the RoboRaiders attained the Team Spirit Award, sponsored by Chrysler, and was runner-up for the Industrial Safety Award, sponsored by UL.

The RoboRaiders are a team of 21 South Plains-area high school students and one middle school student from Lubbock High School, Estacado High School, Kingdom Preparatory Academy and Levelland High School and Hutchins Middle School paired with nine Texas Tech mentors.

For five years, the RoboRaiders have competed in FIRST competitions, this year being the first to qualify for the national competition.

They will travel to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the FIRST championship April 15-17. The RoboRaiders will compete against 255 teams from 40 states as well as Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Australia.

For more information on the RoboRaiders, visit www.team1817.org.


Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With the support of many of the world's most well-known companies, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge for high-school students, the FIRST LEGO(R) League for children 9-14 years old, and the Junior FIRST LEGO League for 6 to 9 year-olds. To learn more about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org.

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu.

CONTACT: Richard Gale, professor in the College of Engineering and adviser for the robotics program, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3533 ext.252, or richard.gale@ttu.edu.