Passion and pandas: local robotics team heading to world champs - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Passion and pandas: local robotics team heading to world championship

They may wear funny panda hats and they like to dance -- but don't let this team of middle school and high school students fool you.  They're serious about building robots.

"We have a lot of passion for it," said Sarah, a member of the team.

They're called the Tuxedo Pandas -- and every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday they meet in the basement of a church in Christiansburg for two to six hours at a time, building, tweaking, and practicing with robots.  When we caught up with them Sunday, they were working with one named "Ghost" which they created last fall.

"We need to help them find the right process," said Franky Marchand, Coach of Tuxedo Pandas.  "But it's all about their ideas and helping them to put them to good use."

Their goal is to build a robot that can move around a 12 x 12 square arena, then pick up colored rings and place them on pegs in the middle of the arena -- doing it better and more often than their competitors.

The Tuxedo Pandas recently took Ghost to the Virginia First Tech Challenge -- a big state tournament in Richmond -- and they came back with the event's top prize called the Inspire Award.

"The Inspire Award is the most prestigious one because it rewards the team that has been able to do all aspects of engineering," said Marchand.  "Outreach, learning, and having a good robot that works."

The team says prior to the competition they had joked about whether they should have an acceptance speech ready in the off-chance they won.  They were stunned when they learned they did.

"We were screaming, crying, smiling," said Sarah.  "It was just amazing."

The win also means they qualify for the World Championship in St. Louis this spring -- one of just two teams in the entire state that get to advance.

"I'm pretty proud of us," said Adrian, a member of the team.  "We've worked really hard."

"You dream about this, you joke about this, but you never thought you'd actually do it," said Johnathan, a member of the team.  "We're just here to have fun.  That's what it's all about."

Because the Tuxedo Pandas are an independent team, they'll have to pay their own way to get to the World Championship.  If you would like to help them, you can make a donation by clicking on the following link:

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