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Peachtree Ridge robotics team heading to world championship

DULUTH - For the second year in a row, the Peachtree Ridge High School Robolions took home the top prize at a robotics tournament.

The team spent Thursday through Saturday competing at the U.S. FIRST Peachtree Regional Robotics Competition, an intense test of athleticism for their 4-foot-tall robot.

Six robots competed at a time, picking up balls and shooting them at giant baskets on either side of a 54-foot field.

For fewer points, they also threw and pushed balls into corner goals. To maximize their score, students had to use teamwork in alliances of three robots that changed every match.

Parent mentor Valerie Strain said it was their innovation that set the Robolions apart.

The students designed their robot so all of its wheels moved independently, increasing its maneuverability. Team members could steer it like a car with four-wheel drive.

"I think we have a robot that doesn't break, because we used strong materials, and I think we had a great design," Strain said.

The robotics competition, which was held at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, attracted 45 teams and 2,000 people. Other local teams that participated included Norcross, North Gwinnett and Collins Hill high schools.

The Robolions also won two other awards: the Underwriters Laboratories Industrial Safety Award and the Delphi "Driving Tomorrow's Technology" Award. Though they came in first place last year, the victory was still a surprise for the team.

"I was in shock," Strain said. "Everybody was screaming. The whole place erupted because the robot really got a lot of attention from the crowd."

Peachtree Ridge will advance to the world championship competition, which will be held April 27 through 29 at the Georgia Dome.

There, they will face off against hundreds of teams from the United States, Israel, Mexico, Ecuador, Canada, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

For more information, visit the U.S. FIRST Web site at www.usfirst.org.