MCC Early College Academy robot team advances to state finals

MCC-Penn Valley Early College Academy robot team members with their two trophies (from left): Dan Justice (coach), Edgar Cerna, Sacdiya Sayid, Dominic Torre, Tania Perez. Not pictured: Julian Amparan, Ibrahim Ayyad, Andrew Powell, Isabella Schoonover. MCC-Penn Valley Mentors: Jasmine Chobya, Emilio Espinoza, Maricarmen Garcia, Andrea Shillingford.

Innovation, creativity and a competitive spirit paid off for MCC-Penn Valley’s Early College Academy robot team.

The team name is the Algorhythms, and it beat 34 high school teams Feb. 9 at Blue Springs High School in the Western Missouri Conference Championship of FIRST Tech Challenge.

The win qualifies the team for the Missouri state championship coming up March 9 at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.

“They are very excited, and even more excited about the chance to make it to the world championship in Houston,” says team coach Dan Justice, an MCC-Penn Valley engineering instructor.

MCC-Penn Valley ECA’s robot team competing in the FIRST Tech Challenge

Not only did the ECA students take first place in the competition, they also claimed another trophy: first place for the Rockwell Collins Innovate award, given to the team whose robot contained unique, useful and reliable features.

This is the team’s second year and the students’ first year competing.  In fact, this was the first award-granting event they have attended.

Primary funding for the robot team comes from the Missouri NASA Space Grant Consortium.

While FIRST Tech Challenge involves designing, building, programming and operating robots, it’s more than that.

Students are coached in developing STEM skills, learn engineering principles and gain experience working as part of a team to solve a common problem.

The program says that 86 percent of its participants have more interest in doing well in school and 87 percent have a greater interest in attending college.

Students involved in the program who are interested in higher education can also apply for more than $80 million in scholarships through FIRST Tech Challenge.