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FIRST Robotics Meet Brings a Capitol Surprise

Fifty-four teams from around the mid-Atlantic squared off at the FIRST Robotics Competition North Carolina Regional, putting their technical skills and teamwork to the test.

The event, held from March 13 through 15 at Raleigh's Dorton Arena, featured a game called Aerial Assist, in which alliances of teams seek to score as many goals as they can during a match lasting  two minutes and 30 seconds. Each alliance consists of three teams. Bonus points can be earned when robots work together to score goals, or if they succeed in throwing or catching balls over a truss suspended above the floor.

For one of the contestants, Andrew Henry of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, the occasion brought not only the thrill of competition, but the welcome news that he had received a Capitol College Scholarship (CSP).

The previous Friday (March 7th), Henry had travelled to the Capitol campus to compete in the college's scholarship competition. After wowing the panel of faculty judges, he was selected as one of 14 CSP winners.

George H. Walls, Capitol College's senior director of admissions, attended the Raleigh meet and was on hand to surprise Henry with the news of his award.

Henry's 20-person team, the Zebra-bots, gathered around him and struck up a round of applause that swept through the arena as Walls told the young student that he had won the scholarship and secured a place in the class of 2018.

Meanwhile, Capitol undergraduate student Indya Dodson was cheering on the Robo-Doves, a team from Baltimore's Western High School. Dodson, who volunteered to serve as the team's mentor, travelled together with them to the contest.

“I was a member of the team last year and came back to help out,” Dodson said. “It was exciting for us to be making our first trip down to Raleigh as a team.  Even though we didn’t win the competition, we still had a really great time, and there were a bunch of new kids on the team who gained experience. It was really nice to interact and work on my leadership skills.”

Although victory eluded them, the Robo Doves did not come away empty-handed. Their impressive team effort earned them the Judge’s Award.

For Walls, the regional event has special meaning, since Raleigh is his hometown. He says he also finds himself serving as an informal ambassador for his home state, explaining local traditions to students visiting from out of town.

During this year's meet, Walls explained, he introduced the Baltimore visitors to authentic North Carolina-style cuisine, cooked up at a celebrated local eatery.

"After a long first day of building, driving, fixing and scouting, the Robo-Doves were starving," Walls explained. "Never having seen North Carolina BBQ before, the lack of sauce threw many of the Baltimore natives for a loop. But a quick tutorial cleared all confusion and the trays were quickly cleaned."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014