The challenge handed to them months ago was to make a robot that would earn points by shooting balls into two corners of a field and into a middle vestibule.

And now, the robots they have spent nearly six months building will compete at a statewide competition.

Center Grove’s FIRST Tech Challenge teams Panic in the Build Room 8149 and Cyber Storm 6190 will compete at a state competition later this month.

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The junior varsity teams are made up of mostly eighth and ninth grade students who can later join the FIRST Red Alert team at Center Grove High School that is mostly sophomore and upper class students. The junior varsity teams earned a berth to state by placing among the top three or four teams at qualifying events across the state, mentor Mark Horne said.

In September, the 28 students, split between the two teams, got their task at the same time as other teams across the world. No blueprints on what the robot should look like or how to build it were shared.

Students had to come up with every aspect of their robot themselves, said Imogen Horne, a freshmen and team captain for Panic in the Build Room.

“We figured out what parts of the game we wanted to do,” she said.

Then, they got to work.

Students split up into groups and each group came up with a few ideas for one part of the robot. Then, the team came together and decided which ideas were the best and used those as the blueprint of their robot.

“We picked the best ideas to build the prototype,” she said.

The robots have one cellphone strapped to the top and a second cellphone with a controller allows the students to control their robot.

Now that the state competition is a few weeks away, students may make improvements to their prototype, versus building another robot from scratch, Horne said.

In the past few months, students had to run their robot and decide what worked and what ideas they could come up with to improve their creation, said Annalise Tugan, an eighth-grader at Center Grove Middle School North.

“It was a lot of trial and error to put it together and make right,” she said.

Their Cyberstorm robot cost $15 to make, with most of the parts coming from recycled parts from past years, said Walker Grove, an eighth-grade student at Center Grove Middle School Central.

Students must make the decisions on how to build their robots to do what they want them to do. Any parts they can’t salvage from past projects can be ordered at specialty robotic part websites, students said.

And students must stick to the budget. Each team gets around $5,000 for their season, with money coming from sponsorships and student fundraising. Most of the budget is used up with registration fees for competition, with some competitions costing a few thousand dollars for students to participate in, Horne said.

About 162 students participate in the robotics program district-wide and even students who don’t find themselves drawn to engineering or actually building the robot can find a purpose on the robotics team doing other jobs, such as marketing and fundraising, Horne said. The teams work out of the school district’s new innovation center, with their own separate area.

“There are a lot of different aspects to it,” he said.

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Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.