GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - After months of hard work and 16 intense matches, Gulfport High's robotics team brought home the top medals. Team Fusion won the "Regional Bayou Robotics Competition" in New Orleans over the weekend. It was an emotional victory.
Now, it's time to gear up for the world championships scheduled for later this month.
"Scorpion" really lived up to its name in the "Bayou Regional Robotics Competition." With its big tail and sharp shooting skills, this robot showed it can sting the competition.
"It was an incredible experience. To finally have that moment of victory and to call ourselves champions is something that's amazing," said team captain Nick Papania.
Scorpion and 43-members of Gulfport High's "Team Fusion" just returned from capturing the Regional Championship Title in New Orleans. They competed in 16-matches, in which Scorpion had to go against other robots to score the most goals.
"This is my first year on the team, so it was really amazing to be a part of something that was so much bigger than I was. My dad's a mentor and he was crying, so that made me cry," said team member Stevie Kanter.
"Everybody erupted. A lot of tears were flowing, tears of joy. It was an amazing experience," said Engineering and Robotics Teacher Clint Brawley.
Fifty-seven teams from ten states competed in the three-day event. In the final elimination rounds, Team Fusion formed an alliance with two other robots from Arkansas and Louisiana.
"It gave us some validation for all the hard work that we had put in. It showed that everything that we had done was worth it, that we weren't the only ones who took pride in what we're doing," said Papania.
Now, Team Fusion and Scorpion are ready to strike again. They are gearing up for the World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri, from April 23-26.
"Our strategy is just to try to make friends with all the good teams and hope that we can work together real well like we have been," said Papania.
"As long as we leave our best effort on the field, we're going to be winners regardless of what happens," said Brawley.
"I just retired out of the Air Force after 22 years, and this one year with these students, I've had as much, if not more reward, working with them than I ever did in the Air Force. This is just an incredible group of kids to work with and they actually wanted to be here and do good in the community and their robot and it's an incredibly rewarding experience," he said.
Team Fusion also won a Chairman's Service Award and the Judges Award for Robot Design and Efficiency. St. Patrick Catholic High School's "Team Tempest" came in second place.