Alabama, Arkansas teams earn national robotics ber...

Alabama, Arkansas teams earn national robotics berths at MTSU event

Teams from Alabama and Arkansas landed invitations to the FIRST Robotics National Championship later this year in Houston, Texas, during the FIRST Tech Challenge Tennessee Regional Robotics Competition, held Feb. 2 in MTSU‘s Alumni Memorial Gym.

Tech Hogs Robotics of Springdale, Arkansas, and The Time Travelers from Huntsville Christian Academy in Huntsville, Alabama, earned their spots in Houston.

Engaging in conversation with MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee

Murfreesboro resident Nate Dunlap, left, of the Tennessee Robotics Club listens to MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, center left, as they discuss the FIRST Robotics Regional Competition in Alumni Memorial Gym Feb. 2. Langston McPhee, 3, the president’s grandson, and MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer watch from the center as other Tennessee Robotics Club participants Davis Dunlap, Dylan Puckett and Jacob Taylor, right, examine their entry. The Robotics Club earned the event’s Collins Aerospace Innovate Award and placed second in the Design Award category. (MTSU photo by Eric Sutton)

In all, 28 teams, 230 participants and 81 mentors from five states participated in the Knoxville, Tennessee-based TNFIRST’s first robotics venture to the Midstate region.

The Time Travelers received a first-place Design Award and placed third in the Inspire Award category. Tech Hogs Robotics, the first team selected by the team captain, advanced as a member of the winning alliance.

The Tennessee FTC State Championship’s top two awards went to the Browncoats from Madison, Alabama, who received the Inspire Award, and the ’Lectric Legends, a home-schooled group from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, who took home the Captain of the Winning Alliance. These teams previously qualified for the championship at other events, opening the door for Tech Hogs Robotics and The Time Travelers to earn championship berths.

Tennessee Robotics Club, Murfreesboro’s lone entry, was the Collins Aerospace Innovate Award winner and placed second in the Design Award category.

Competition matches drew participants, onlookers and judges.

Competition matches draw participants, onlookers and judges Feb. 2 during the FIRST Robotics Regional Competition in Alumni Memorial Gym. About 230 middle school and high school students competed on 28 teams in the event at MTSU. (MTSU photo by Eric Sutton)

Joined by his 3-year-old grandson, Langston McPhee, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee attended the robotics regional, speaking with members of the participating teams.

“For a first-time event, it went very well,” said Mike Wehrenberg, chairman of TNFIRST, a nonprofit corporation organized to provide resources and activities that build and expand mentor-based robotics programs across Tennessee.

“We were happy for the kids, both in terms of their competitive spirit at this event as well as their continued pursuit of team-building, problem-solving and technology skills.”

Wehrenberg said MTSU and Alumni Memorial Gym were “well received” as the event location. “Being in Middle Tennessee and the potential for West Tennessee are very important to us.”

MTSU’s Department of Engineering Technology and the College of Basic and Applied Sciences helped host the event. One of the department’s signature programs is mechatronics engineering, which features robotics.

— Randy Weiler (

Carrying her team's robot

A participant in the FIRST Robotics Regional Competition carries the Nerdettes team’s entry onto the playing surface Feb. 2 in MTSU’s Alumni Memorial Gym while another team examines their entry on a table behind her. The Nerdettes are from Owens Cross Roads near Madison, Ala. (MTSU photo by Eric Sutton)

Regional robotics crowd at MTSU

The crowd at the Feb. 2 FIRST Robotics Regional in Alumni Memorial Gym watches the action on the floor to support their teams. MTSU hosted the regional event for the first time as 28 teams and 230 students prepared their robots for seven hours of competition. (MTSU photo by Eric Sutton)