Austintown robotics team off to world championships

Staff photo / Bob Coupland... The seven members of the Falco Tech FIRST Robotics team and their advisers will leave today for the world robotics championships in Houston, Texas. The team has been preparing for the event after a successful regional competition season. Team members gathered around the robot are, clockwise from front left, Kayla Bixler, 14, freshman, Mineral Ridge High School; Luke Kolenick, 16, sophomore, Jackson-Milton High School; Emma Casey, 16, sophomore, Austintown Fitch High School; Carter Vogelberger, 14, freshman, Fitch; Aiden Arnold, 16, sophomore, Fitch; Blake Tillotson, 16, sophomore, Fitch; and Joselyn McKenney 15, freshman, Fitch.

AUSTINTOWN — As one of only 10 teams in the state heading to the FIRST Robotics world championships this week, seven members of the Austintown team and their coaches and advisers were leaving today for the long drive to Texas.

The Falco Tech team will compete in Houstonon Wednesday through Saturday with their robot, Talon Nexus.

“We are the only team from the Mahoning Valley competing at worlds this year,” said coach Andrew Yantes.

He said to make it to the world championship, the Austintown team was a finalist at the Miami Valley Regional April 6.

“We were very lucky. Because it was such a late regional event, other teams already had advanced so we were awarded a wild card position,” Yantes said.

He said in the team’s 15 years of competing, this is the third time it has advanced to worlds, with the last time being five years ago.

“This team has never been to world championships. This is the first time the team has gone to Houston. This is a much bigger trip for us. The last two events were in St. Louis and Detroit,” he said.

There will be 600 teams at the world championships.

Yantes said the team has seven members in grades ninth and tenth from Austintown Fitch High School, Mineral Ridge High School and Jackson-Milton High School.

During the 2024 season, the team also competed at regional robotics events at the Finger Lakes Regional in Rochester, New York in March.

“All the seniors who were on the team last year graduated. This year the team is freshmen and sophomores. This is a new team who did something right to advance,” Yantes said.

The team this past few weeks has been doing whatever it can to make sure the robot is ready and in good shape. The team also has been raising money for the trip.

Yantes said the team will have the opportunity to interact with teams form many other states, as as well as Canada, Australia, China and Turkey.


Students taking part in FIRST Robotics say they enjoy working together to program, build and compete with their robot.

Aiden Arnold, a sophomore at Austintown Fitch marking his second year on the team, said he looks forward to not only having fun as a team at the competition, but making sure to be able to program the robot to accomplish the needed tasks. He said the competition had a musical theme this year with the robots taking musical-note shaped rings and throwing them to earn points.

Blake Tillotson, a sophomore from Austintown Fitch in his second year on the team, said he looks forward to having the control to drive the robots in the competition and work with other teams.

“Overcoming obstacles was the most challenging part of the competition at regionals,” he said.

The team began building the robot in January and started competing in March.

“We were all very surprised when we learned we were going to the worlds. There will be hundreds of other teams we will be competing against. We will do what we can to hold our own,” said Luke Kolenic,a sophomore at Jackson-Milton.

Kayla Bixler, a freshman from Mineral Ridge High School, said the competition requires a lot of teamwork, which she said was the reason for the team’s success.

The competition helps students develop social skills and teamwork needed to solve problems and finish projects.

In addition to Yantes, also helping on the trip are Mike Mellott , a lead mentor, Bill McKenney, an adviser, and Bobby Hudock and Nathan Anderson, team advisers.

Have an interesting story? Email Bob Coupland at bcoupland@tribtoday.com.


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