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Dreams Of Robots

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Omegabytes pose for a group shot after their statewide victory in robotic competition in October.

Rutherford County is full of dreamers. More than 40 of them are over at the REaCH High School building robots.

Team coach and faculty sponsor Danny Smith is so fired up about the team that he talks pretty fast, but he wants folks to understand that Omegabytes, the robotics team, is just part of a larger effort to engage many parts of county life and improve the overall quality of life and opportunities.

"If kids start to understand they can do this kind of engineering and creativity and make the connection to actual jobs here in the county, we have succeeded and we intend to do a lot more of it," Smith said at a celebration party in the Isothermal Commons recently. The party was to celebrate the Omegabytes finishing first in a recent robotics competition.

In North Carolina statewide competition that was held Saturday, Oct. 9, at Mountain Island Charter School in Mt. Holly the team triumphed. In this first outing of the 2021/2022 year, the Omegabytes came out of last year's abbreviated competition season and overcame mechanical issues early in the day to advance from the bottom to the top of the scoreboard.

The team has members from almost all of the county's high schools. It's based at the REaCH high school on the Isothermal campus, but the robot builders and competitors come from all over.

What excites team co-captain Diego Romero Rojas? "How we got out into the community and how we impact the people around us. I never dreamed of being an engineer. I wasn't even sure what engineers do, so this opportunity really showed me a whole new world."

Coach Smith said the team members are encouraged to work as closely as possible to industry standards in their building and operating the robot, named Tr00per, with two zeros instead of two "o's." Those of you who understand computer talk will get the reasons for that.

Davey Sheeley, who is in management with Westrock, says the robotics team is training exactly the kind of employees his company "spends millions of dollars a year recruiting, employees who understand technology and can work well under pressure."

In addition to competing against teams from across the state, the Omegabytes have worked with young people at the Grahamtown Community Center and through Blue Ridge Hope's Hopeworks after school program.

One of the team's mentors, Amy Cochran, said the long-term goal of the team is to work with many businesses and organizations throughout the county and she and Coach Smith agreed that improving community life is the overall goal of the program.

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