Robots to take over MB Convention Center

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Dozens of robots will take over the Myrtle Beach Convention center during the Palmetto Regional, FIRST Robotics Competition.

The FIRST Robotics Competition started off as a local competition in New Hampshire to get students excited about science and technology. Over the last decade it's turned into a global competition.

Team Mantequilla (Spanish for butter) at Conway High School is one of 2,500 competing teams from across the world and one of nine Horry County schools gearing up for the regional competition.

"It's been crazy. Working and working," said Conway High sophomore Eilee Burton-Brooks. This is her second year with the school's robotics team.

Each participating team is given a starter kit, pages of rules to follow, and six weeks to design and build a robot. "We have not much time left," said Burton-Brooks.

Every year FIRST reveals a newly designed course and a new challenge. This year's course is called Ultimate Ascent. Robots can score points by throwing Frisbees into a goal and by climbing a 10 foot tall steel pyramid.

"We decided that the more points were in the climbing. So from the beginning we said let's forget the disks. Let's climb the pyramid," explained Burton-Brooks.

Barbara Allen is with Santee Cooper, a long-time sponsor of the competition. Allen says any student can benefit from this challenge.

"Everybody is going to have to have a technical background in some facet. It doesn't matter what your job is," says Allen.

FIRST gives students a taste of what they will eventually experience in the real world. "Students have to come together, learn to work as a team. They learn to persevere and to work through issues."

Burton-Brooks says Team Mantequilla can attest to that. "We put it together and it's like wait that doesn't work with this."

The FIRST Robotics competition  gives a real life lesson in meeting deadlines. Tuesday night all teams have to stop and put their power tools down. Robots are to be boxed until the competition in a couple of weeks. In the meantime Team Mantequilla is aiming high.

"It's supposed to climb to the top," said Burton-Brooks.

Teams warm up on Thursday, Feb. 28, with robot inspections and practice rounds at the Convention Center, followed by the tournament itself all day Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2.

Teams can fine-tune their robots in the "pit area," then move to the stage for fast-paced, timed competitions.  The two-day tournament at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, one of 77 regional and district competitions around the world this year, is free and open to the public.  Visit for more information about the Palmetto Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.

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