Inaugural robotics competition makes mark in Laurel

Laurel hosts inaugural robotics competition
Published: Mar. 18, 2023 at 10:19 PM CDT
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LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - History was made in the City Beautiful Saturday.

The City of Laurel hosted the first ever 2023 Magnolia Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at The Magnolia Center.

Teams from high schools across six states competed to advance to the world championship competition in Texas.

Laurel Councilman Kevin Kelly said the event served not only as a great way to bring in visitors to the city, but also to retain the young talent in the state.

“There’s hotel rooms that are full and so it’s exciting to have that,” Kelly said, “but also to build a foundation here for robotics that can start retaining some of the knowledge and creativity these kids have for our future and Laurel and history and the public sector.”

Anna Comeaux, who was a member of the Picayune Memorial High School team, said the competition brought people together.

“You get really close bonds with your people,” Comeaux said. “This is a lot different from being in the shop. You really get to know the person, how they act under stress, so that’s always something that’s fun to find out.”

The competition consisted of different tasks that each team’s robots had to execute to earn points.

“Our robot’s a little skinnier than it usually is,” Comeaux said. “Usually it’s pretty wide and pretty tall, but this year, we’re lower to the ground with an arm that extends out like a claw on the end and it works great.”

Although the event revolved around the robots performing skills successfully, Comeaux said the robotics program goes far beyond the competition.

“I used to not be able to speak in front of cameras, people, crowds,” she said. “I didn’t like presentations, doing a lot of public speaking.

“With FIRST and outside of FIRST, I’ve done some other different types of competitions where I’ve done different speaking things and that has been a great experience for me.”

The three-match winners from the competition were from Louisiana, along with one team from Fort Payne, Ala., as well.

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