Team CHAOS wins Regionals

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 31, 2018

Earlier this month, Pearl River County’s Team CHAOS (1423) competed in two regional FIRST Robotics competitions, one in Orlando, Fla., and one in New Orleans, La. After fierce competition, the team won the New Orleans Bayou Regional event and was granted the opportunity to compete in the upcoming world championship in Houston, Texas, on April 18.

Team mentor Karen Balch said Team CHAOS competes in two separate regional events every year. She said the team typically starts the season with a regional event in a different part of the country, such as Orlando, so they can see how their robot performs outside of practice. Depending on how well the robot has done, students will come back and make necessary programming changes so the robot has a better chance of winning the home competition.

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“It’s a really neat learning experience for our team,” Balch said.

While the competition can be heated, Balch said FIRST encourages students to adopt an attitude of “gracious professionalism” during the event. This means helping other teams – even if it may help the opposing team earn a victory.

Balch said that during the event in Orlando, she was informed that a robotics team from the Netherlands did not have enough students for their drive team. To help ensure the team was not disqualified, Balch sent one of her students to work with the opposing team. The student worked with them during the entire weekend. Balch happily encouraged the cooperation and provided the student with any additional parts or supplies he needed to help. Balch said the student was ecstatic to be able to work beside an international team during the event.

Balch said this cooperation teaches students about the importance of being professional and willing to work with others.

“You’re not just teaching and learning from STEM, you’re learning how to help others,” Balch said.

Balch said over the past 15 years or so, the team has won several regional events and has traveled to the world competition five times. Of these competitions, the team placed as a finalist at world once.

Unfortunately, the cost of competing at each competition is steep. Balch said the registration fee alone for the world competition is $5,000.

The team received a great deal of support from various sponsors, including NASA, during this season, but most of the funds were used at the regional level. Because of this, Balch said they are currently planning several fundraisers for the coming weeks to help offset costs.

Balch said if anyone would like to donate to help Team CHAOS compete in Houston, she can be contacted at