HILTON HEAD, Sc. (WSAV) – The Hilton Head High School robotics team is officially world renowned after the team won first place in an international robotics competition at MIT last week. Tuesday morning, they got a very loud welcome back in what the school calls the Champions’ Walk.
The team of four boys, ages 15 to 17, got to walk the halls lined with fellow students applauding them as cheerleaders and the band played behind them.
“I didn’t know how many people I knew until I walked down the hall and everybody was screaming, ‘Bryan!’” said Senior Bryan Velazquez.
Velazquez and sophomores Arnaut Aguilar, Cristian Ambrocio and Kieran Ashton call themselves the “Beach Botics.”
“We started programming this code around the beginning of September, that’s when we got the challenge from MIT and NASA,” Velazquez said.
The MIT and NASA joint competition invited 230 teams from around the world to code a program that would get a satellite to drill into the moon and return samples.
“It’s basically like a video game, but you have to program everything,” said Velazquez.
Beach Botics barely made it passed the first round, with a midnight deadline on September 29th, Velazquez said they just couldn’t get the code to work.
“We had pretty much given up,” said Robotics Advisor John Quindlen, “Because it was 5:30, we were tired, the kids had homework…the team got together, without the mentors, and worked til 11:50 at night and submitted a code which was accepted and moved the robot one point.”
In the next round – they placed 5th of 82 teams which took them to the finals at MIT.
“In the final, we had been running on real life satellites that had been previously simulated,” Ashton said.
Paired up with two teams from Italy, they took first place.
“We never expected to win the whole competition; we were just doing it for fun,” Velazquez said.
“I was not expecting this at all,” Ashton added, “I’m very proud of our team.”
“My generation… got us on the moon; these guys are gonna put us on mars,” Quindlen said.
He also said there was a girl on the team, but she had to drop out when she got sick.