KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Many events, celebrations and activities have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Students, especially seniors, have also missed milestones in their education and extracurricular activities because schools have been closed.
The Red Nation Robotics team was no different. They qualified for the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship scheduled for April 15-18, but it was canceled due to COVID-19.
The team is made up of dozens of students, mentors and investors from Halls High, Powell High and some teenagers who are home-schooled.
Morgan Everett, the team’s lead mentor, said his students made huge improvements to win the FRC Arkansas Regional in early March.
“Only the third time in our team’s 8-year history that we qualified for world championships… for my seniors, they would’ve been the first students that would’ve gotten to attend two world championships,” Everett said.
He said that not too long after the team qualified, they found out the championship was going to be canceled.
“Within two or three days of the Smoky Mountain Regional being canceled, all the regional competitions began to close and postpone like dominoes, so FIRST made the decision to cancel the championships,” Everett said.
He said he was in the room with several other students, including some seniors, when he got the news.
Everett said they were all devastated.
“It’s just really, really hard because these students have poured their hearts, and souls, their blood, their sweat, frustration, and they get this taste of success and then it’s just taken from them. Yanked from them,” Everett said.
He said that the championship isn’t only a competition. He said it’s like a conference where students can meet future employers, see new technology, work with other students from around the world and listen to guest speakers who are leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Although his team, nor any team, will be able to compete at the championship, Everett said his students were fortunate enough to compete in at least one competition.
He said several other schools weren’t able to compete in their first competition because they were scheduled a little later in the month.
“It’s almost indescribable the experiences students get at World Championship and, you know, to miss out on that, you know, I feel for the thousands and thousands of students that are missing out on that this year,” Everett said.
He said that even though several aspects of robotics needs to be done in person, his students have been working hard while at home.
They can code from home, increase social media and marketing and communicate with each other.
“They haven’t got to fabricate; they haven’t gotten to marry hardware and code. But we continue to communicate, we continue to work and do the best we can,” Everett said.
He said it’s truly heartbreaking that his seniors won’t be able to compete at the world championship anymore, but they will be able to come back next season and help mentor their former classmates.
“(With) COVID-19, there’s some unfortunate outcomes, but it is teaching us a new style of communication and a new style of working and really not shutting us down,” Everett said.
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