From left, sophomore Mia Martinez, senior head builder Melanie Smith and coach Jeff Williams show off one of the robots that will be in the state competition in April. (Jared Van Epps/Wave photo)

The Calhoun High School robotics team finished in first place in both the Anderson and Channelview district robotics competitions.

This is the ninth year for the robotics team in Calhoun, and this is the first time since 2017 that the team won a competition.

Jeff Williams, the Crab-Bots coach and CHS Physics teacher, said this is the first time that the team won something big.

Williams said robotics is a little of everything and added they can bring in everybody into the fold to try to manage finances like a business.

“We have to design and build the robot. We have to market ourselves to the community,” Williams said. “It is a broad program that covers pretty much anything that has to do with the real world.”

The theme for the crab-bots this year is deep space. The teams in the competition must loadcargo into rockets and cargo ships to earn points.

“In the game this year our robot is supposed to be able to grab onto a hatch panel, they are little disks and cargo, which are dodgeballs,” said senior Melanie Smith, the Crab-Bots head builder. She said the robot is supposed to be able to place them (the dodgeballs) into the rocket ship and cargo ship to earn points.

Smith added that they also play defense, which is what the Crab-Bots are known for. The goal is to prevent the opponent’s best robot from scoring points.

“They [the coaches] want us to shut down the best one, the one that puts the most balls in the cargo,” Ismael Herrera, the Crab-Bots sophomore driver, said. “What we do is hit the balls and make sure they get out, and if they do get in, we block their paths to try to get in another one.”

Herrera is the driver of the robot. He said once the team builds the robot, they need someone to drive it since it is not a CPU-based robot.

Smith and Herrera are in their second year with the Crab-Bots, and Smith said it was crazy when they won the two district meets.

“I think it is crazy because this the 9th year that the team has been a thing at the high school,” Smith said. “And the last time that we won was in 2017, and we have one banner.”

Smith said she joined the team because friends from her freshmen year ask her to join. Smith added that when she joined, she didn’t know if she was going to like it.

“I didn’t even know if I would like it, but I got into the building and everything and I actually love it, like all the wiring,” Smith said. “And I actually know what I want to do with my job through robotics.”

Smith said her favorite part is the electrical aspect of the project, and with Williams helping to teach her how to do to the wiring, she wants to be an electrician just like her father.

The Crab-Bots will head to Austin, Wednesday, April 3, to compete in the state championship for robotics.

Williams said he and his team will try to think of how to modify their strategy because they’ll be facing a higher level of competition in the state championship.