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Muscatine High School robotics team returning to world championships

The Fire Island Robotics team will be one of over 450 teams from around the world at the 'FIRST' Robotics Competition in Houston, TX the second year in a row.

MUSCATINE, Iowa — Muscatine High School's robotics team is getting another chance of a lifetime to compete in a world championship.

Despite school being out for spring break, students from the Fire Island Robotics team still came together on March 14th to prepare for the FIRST Robotics Competition.

"We have students here who maybe have never used power tools before, maybe in some cases have never even used a cordless screwdriver or something like that," head coach Chris Hoffman said. "For them to go from that to potentially using our CNC mill where they're milling metal and creating something from a block of metal — it's an amazing thing."

The team qualified for the global competition after performing well at regional tournaments. It will be the third time they've competed globally in 7 years and the second consecutively.

For senior student Ethan Mattes, engineering started as a curiosity. The team, which is also a school club, used to do Lego robotics as well.

"My dad was just kind of like, 'Hey Ethan, you want to go try this Lego League thing?'" Mattes said. "I liked to play with Legos as a kid, and I was like 'yeah, sure!' I was in the fourth grade."

Mattes said robotics is incredibly challenging but rewarding.

"In both my internships and sports that I've played, this amount of stress you're put under is incomparable to anything else... but you get through it, you try to keep your head as best as you can, and you're better for it in the end," Mattes said.

He added that the experiences have inspired him greatly.

"I always liked cars and tractors and stuff like that, and now coming out of this... now I know I want to go into engineering," Mattes said.

Coach Hoffman is proud of what the students can do and champions their diverse backgrounds.

"Some students are here because they're really interested in engineering-type things - some found out about robotics and come because of that reason, others come because their friends are here, and they want to come check it out," Hoffman said. "Some come because they've heard it's like a micro-business that we're running here, because there has to be planning and budgeting and all that and they liked the idea of kind of getting that practice - but all of them benefit from it."

The team will be in Houston, TX on Apr. 19-22, competing against over 450 teams from around the world.

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