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Nicholas Sylvias and Kahl Murdock take on 561 teams at competition in Kentucky

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Nicholas Sylvias and Kahl Murdock will competed from Thursday, April 26, through Saturday, April 28, participating in timed challenges testing the speed, efficiency and strength of their robot against 561 teams in the VEX Robotics World Championship.This past weekend, two Sandy High School students travelled to Louisville, Ky., to compete against more than 560 other teams to see who has the best robot in the world. There are 15,000 robotics teams in the world, and only 562 make it to the VEX Robotics World Championship.

Senior Nicholas Sylvias and freshman Kahl Murdock competed in the research division and came in 24th in the world.

The club has sent students to the world competition every year for nine years, and in 2014 the competing team won fourth place.

Sylvias and Murdock competed from Thursday, April 26, through Saturday, April 28, participating in timed challenges testing the speed, efficiency and strength of their robot.

"This year's experience was like no other before," Sylvias said. "My first year at VEX Worlds in 2016 was quite the learning experience. My team, 1460A, went 0-10 that tournament. We placed dead last out of 500 teams. It was demoralizing, but I'm glad it happened. This year was the complete opposite with 1460A, Flip'n Awesome, being Research Division Finalists. This season ended up going by a lot faster than I expected. It was the season I'd been dreaming of ever since my freshman year. I'm happy to have ended strongly. I never would've thought that I would bring Sandy another VEX Worlds trophy."

Earlier this year, the club took home first place in the state competition and the excellence award for best robot.

"That's our fourth state (championship) title and third excellence award in five years," advisor Aron Eslinger noted.

Eslinger attributes her teams' history of success to the students' dedication and flexibility.

"My kids start building their robots in May," Eslinger said. "They do lots of testing and prototyping (and) they aren't afraid of changing their robots throughout the year."

She added that besides putting in a great deal of work to ensure individual success, the club members also help each other improve their knowledge and their robots.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Senior Nicholas Sylvias and freshman Kahl Murdock competed in the research division in the VEX Robotics World Championship and came in 24th in the world. "Going into robotics is a huge learning curve," Eslinger added. "When you have seniors trying to help new kids coming in ... it helps get them over that hill faster. And that's really been why we've been so successful."

Not only is robotics a fun activity for students at Sandy High, but, Eslinger explained, it's a great opportunity for students interested in industries like engineering and manufacturing to gain hands-on experience while still in high school.

Sylvias himself plans to pursue a career in the engineering field.

"Our program combines design work and the architectural side with computer science," Eslinger said. "They're using stuff the manufacturing industry is using today, (like AutoCad). They walk out of high school with some marketable skills."

Besides the natural challenge of competing, finances often pose a problem for the club as well.

Robotics is not a cheap pastime. The team usually tries to amass around $12,000 to $15,000 every year, because the cost just to enter the world competition is $975 per person — not including the cost of hotel stay, meals or travel — and the cost to build one robot is close to $1,000 to $1,500.

Fortunately, the club brings in donations through community service. They help out with the trash collection for the Sandy Mountain Festival and volunteer with other local events and groups, and in return businesses and organizations make donations to the club. Some of these businesses include Northwest Water Works, Microchip Technology and Build Strong Construction.

"Sandy sending a team ... is huge," Eslinger noted. "They've put together a very well-engineered little bot."

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