Fort Payne robotics team earns Chairman’s Award


FORT PAYNE, Ala. – The Fort Payne High School robotics team is celebrating a monumental win. The team is preparing for even more hard work in order to win against competitors from around the world.

The Gigawatts are showing what it takes to be successful in all facets of the robotics world.

Members recently competed in the FIRST robotics competition.

FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

“This year, we had to do these little circuits and try to get as much time as possible and also do the same ball shooting,” explained Sophomore member Clark McClung.

McClung has been a member of the Gigawatts since middle school.

“It’s practically a job. We do it basically 24/7. We come in here during school days, we do things after school. We come in on Saturdays and Sundays,” added Sophomore member Caitlyn O’ Shields.

All their hard work paid off.

They won the Chairman’s Award for the Southeast region and will go on to compete with Chairman’s Award winners from around the world in June.

“The most prestigious award we could have won with FIRST. It’s ultimate goal is to establish establish a greater love and respect for science and technology while inspiring today’s youth to become leaders in STEM,” said Sophomore Laurel Sugart.

McClung described his excitement when hearing they had won as, “They kept going through and it was just one-by-one, all of the stuff that we submitted and it wasn’t being called us. It wasn’t being called any Alabama team and then boom, defeating the frontlines 7428 Gigawatts and it was absolutely insane.”

The Gigwatts are only the third Alabama team to ever win the award and the first in 13 years.

They won by working hard in other aspects besides on the robot.

“A big part of first is it’s more than just robots. The robot is what you see. The robot is what you think when you think robotics, but we do a lot more with motivating our team members to join STEM fields past high school,” Sugart said. “This past year, we’ve done a couple of different service projects. We organized a “feeding the Frontlines” campaign. We raised money to feed 150 meals to our hospital staff, our first responders, and the staff of a local grocery store that stayed open during the pandemic.”

McClung, O’Shields and Sugart told News 19 that being a part of the team is not only building their confidence and getting them out of their shells, but also preparing them for their future careers through networking with other STEM fields.

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