FIRST Beach Bot Battle a first for Mississippi

FIRST Beach Bot Battle a first for Mississippi

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Mississippi Power’s sponsorship of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Beach Bot Battle robotics competition meant for the first time a robotics event was held at a venue inside Mississippi’s border.

Gulfport High School and Team Fusion #364 opened its doors to 120 high school students on 11 robotics teams from across the region for an off-season competition that could be compared to a football exhibition game. The event featured 2-foot tall robots capable of shooting whiffle balls into a bucket, picking up gear-like wheels and loading them onto a tower. In the final task of each round, the machine is hoisted onto the tower.

“We sponsor six robotics teams across our service territory, including two that competed in the event,” said Ann Holland, Community Development representative. “The teams from Mississippi usually have to leave the state to compete. We wanted them to have a chance to host a great event in their own backyard.”

Company employees took part in the arena set up and helped judge several rounds of competition during the event.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Vivian Rodriguez, Transmission engineer and event volunteer. “Seeing high school kids already programming machines is impressive. They are ahead of the curve. It’s great to see what could be some of our future employees taking on this challenge and working together as teams.”

Tommy Murphy, Coast Division manager, helped kick-off the competition and explained why STEM- related projects are so important to the company.

“We’re proud to be sponsoring this event,” Murphy said. “We get involved with events like this to inspire the next generation of technology and engineering professionals, and to help make this a great place to work and live.”

For Clint Brawley, Team Fusion #364 coach, hosting the event was a dream come true.

“Mississippi Power approached us a few years ago with the idea of one day hosting an event and we jumped at the chance,” said Brawley, who was also named FIRST Senior Mentor for the region. “We’ve dreamed of doing this, and it’s finally happened. We can’t thank the company enough for helping to make this happen.”

While the Beach Bot Battle was held at the Gulfport Central Elementary School gym due to ongoing construction work at Gulfport High, there was no drop-off in excitement as each team worked through rounds of competitions, making robot adjustments on the fly and in the pit area outside the competition arena.

“I’m a junior in high school but I started out as a ‘scout’, which means I helped the team when I could,” said Thomas Floyd, a junior at Destrehan (La.) High School. “Now I’m a programmer, so I went from not doing a lot to being one of the team leaders. This event is great because robotics is competitive, but it’s also a collaborative activity. This event gives us a chance to share knowledge and materials with each other.”

Picayune’s Kolby Balch helps lead Team Chaos, a company-sponsored squad made up of students from schools in Pearl River County.

“Mississippi Power has sponsored us from the beginning,” Balch said. “We don’t have a ton of resources, so every little bit helps. It’s great to be at an event close to home and share ideas with other teams. I hope this will keep growing and prove that more STEM events are needed in our area.”

Team 456 Siege Robotics (Vicksburg), Team Combustion (Slidell, La.) and Benjamin Franklin High School Team 4087 (New Orleans) all were top winners at the event.

Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), produces safe, reliable and environmentally responsible energy for nearly 188,000 customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties. Mississippi Power ranked first in the Southeastern Electric Exchange’s 2016 Safety Performance Reports and is consistently recognized as an industry leader in reliability, customer service and safety. Visit our websites at mississippipower.com and mississippipowernews.com, like us on Facebook, and follow us on TwitterLinkedInGoogle+ and YouTube.