Bottin' it out: Local school heads to world robotics championship

St. Mary's School "TNT" Robotics team/KTVL

High school students at St. Mary's School in Medford and a destructive robot named Dent are preparing to dominate the FIRST Championship next Wednesday.

The St. Mary's School robotics program started with a school Lego building team seven years ago. Now, T-N-T, or "Trial-N-Terror", one of three robotics teams in the school, is headed to the robotics world championship for the second time in three years.

The team came up with the name from experience.

"Most of the season was trial and terror -- we'd try something and the kids would sort of hide and you have to put the safety glasses on because you didn't know if it was going to fall apart or explode or something like that," says team coach Catherine Dauterman.

The now-veteran team of thirteen St. Mary's students beat out more than $5,000 teams this year, placing them in the top five percent of robotics teams in the world.

"They know more of what they're doing, less sort-of skidding along and hoping that they land on their feet. This is more strategy and thoughtfulness, like what they're doing now with the practicing," says Dauterman.

The team has raised more than $5,000 for SOAR league mini-grants to support teams in rural Southern Oregon.

"It wasn't really about competition, it was more about leveling the playing field," says Nick Johnson, a senior TNT team member who played an important roll in raising the funds.

Gordon Dauterman, a junior, is up for the "Deans List" Award this weekend for his overall work. Getting involved with robotics at St. Mary's has lead him towards his future career.

"When I first started, it was seven years ago, but I had no idea what I wanted to do," says Dauterman. But as I've gone through this program, I really realized that I have a passion for programming that I probably would have not ever found."

"It's not about the robot," says team coach Dauterman. "It's really not. It's about problem solving, and challenges, and technologies."

The teammates work to promote STEM -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics -- programs throughout the community.

"STEM leads to growth,"says Johnson.

The school is still constructing their new stem center that will house all three robotics teams. In the meantime, T-N-T will continue perfecting their craft in their special trailer on the school campus.

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