JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - East Central's football team is getting ready to fight for a state title, but it's not the only group on campus preparing for the next level of competition. One group of students is going up against schools from four other states this weekend for a regional title.
Nine years ago, the robotics program at East Central High School was barely more than a dream.
"We had no idea what we were getting into. We were just happy to have a robot that moved the first year. But, we have progressed since then to a competing team," said teacher Penny Dearman.
Dearman started the group at the middle school, and it expanded to the high school. The team is now not only competing, but making a name for itself.
The team placed fourth overall against more than 30 schools from Mississippi and Alabama, qualifying for finals in the competition for the first time.
"We'll be competing against the best of the best at Auburn, and there will be 56 teams from five different states," said high school teacher Tammy Sampson.
According to Sampson, the students have been working nonstop since September to get to this point.
"Even over Thanksgiving break they were up here right along with our football team," said Sampson.
The students seem to enjoy the process. First comes the design phase.
"We've got to pick out which one's the best one, which one's not, how each one can work with one another. And then we actually start building the parts for our prototype, and then finally making the final version right here," said junior Preston Lee.
The students learn valuable lessons along the way, even beyond the technology.
"There's a lot of group work involved. You have to learn how to work well in a team. You have to learn to work well under pressure," said junior Taylor Graham.
The middle schoolers still play an integral part in the success of the team. Eighth grader Henry Wilson sees the value in each aspect of the competition.
"It helps a lot with marketing. It gets you used to talking and socially talking to others. It is very well rounded," said Wilson.
The South's BEST Robotics Championship is at Auburn this weekend.