Hutto High School robotics team defends state title in Dallas

Hutto High School robotics, also known as Roboco, is headed to Dallas to defend their state championship at the State UIL Competition.

“Every year the pressure’s up,” said Ben Blok, Roboco build team manager.  

This year is no different. Roboco will have to prove they have what it takes to hold onto their title at the Boosting Engineering Science Technology, or BEST, competition. 

“It was definitely surreal and to even be saying that we're a state champion. It doesn't feel real and it's just something that we're very, very proud of,” said Jade Ruggirello, head of marketing for Roboco.  

Hutto High School robotics has been competing for the last seven years. Each year is a little different, challenging students in new ways. 

“We're given the schematic for the playing field we're going to compete on, and we immediately go to Home Depot and we buy those materials, and we replicate it,” Blok said. 

“I think one of the major differences this year was the theme of the game… We usually have a rolling robot that we can maneuver and control on the ground and this year it had to be elevated and balanced on a beam,” Ruggirello said.  

Roboco's robot, Perry, has a big job to do in order to gain points and compete with more than 70 other teams from three different states. “Our robot has to go into the ocean, clean up plastic out of the ocean gyres, and then turn those materials into reef building blocks,” Blok said.  

Judges score each team on all aspects of a business pitch. Roboco has to have marketers, engineers, graphic designers, and even cheerleaders. 

“Everything you could imagine a company might have, we have with us, and so it's an entire company,” said Andrew Haub, the Hutto High School robotics teacher.

Students put in hundreds of hours of practice in the six weeks leading up to the competition.

“We've put a lot of effort into it and we keep hitting roadblocks, but we keep tackling those roadblocks, and so, the best part about being prepared and practicing and putting in those long hours is, you get to expect the unexpected,” Haub said.  

All that work finally pays off when they compete in what students describe as a sports-like environment. “I just love the aspect of the community getting involved and coming to support us in a giant arena filled with hundreds and hundreds of people and it's just one of the best feelings in the world,” said Ruggirello.  

Roboco will find out where they placed in the three-day competition Saturday evening.