HAMMOND | The School City of Hammond's robotics team is preparing to head to the world championship months after the program lost a major sponsor, placing its future in jeopardy.
The team obtained a $5,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to keep the program afloat for this year, team volunteer Dee Jones said.
“It's been everybody pulling together,” Jones said. “I guess it has made us become closer and more of a family to some degree. I don't know if anybody thought we'd be where we are today. Our goal was to make sure we had a team, and a team that was ready to compete.”
Beatty International, a longtime mentor for the team, pulled its support because of the financial impact the company expected to incur from the city's new scavenging ban. One of Beatty's subsidiaries ran a retail yard for local scrappers, and proceeds generated by the business were used to support community activities.
Despite the sponsorship loss, the team took top honors at the Midwest regional competition, featuring 53 high school teams from as far away as Turkey.
The team's robot must be able to shoot discs into different goals and climb up a pyramid. At the regional competition in Chicago, Hammond's robot was one of the few able to maneuver the pyramid.
The world competition in St. Louis from April 24 to 27 will feature 400 teams, said Katie Goodrich, team member and Gavit High School senior.
“It was really exciting,” Goodrich said of the regional win. “I was down on the field because I was taking pictures and I got to watch the drive team's reaction.”
The Hammond team is no stranger to the world championship and has won more titles at the competition than any other team.
Eric Brogdon, a Gavit High School junior, is one of two members in charge of driving the robot during competitions. This year's is his first as a driver.
“It feels great as a driver because this is my first year driving, and I'm able to go to the championship in my rookie year of driving,” Brogdon said.