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PHOTO: From left are Liam Griese, Camden Whitehead, John Molpus, Jackson Reimers (Mentor), Alexander Domkowski (Head Coach), Ethan Hobson, Angie Baird, Grant Hobson, George Huey (Mentor). Kneeling are Nicholas Grummon, left, and Michael Brown (Team Captain), at the FIRST Robotics Smokey Mountain Regional Competition in March of 2018 / SUBMITTED

By BROOKE WANSER

This week, a group of Franklin High School students traveled to Houston for the FIRST Championship, an international robotics competition for thousands of students from kindergarten through high school.

After surprising themselves by winning the FIRST Robotics Smokey Mountain Regional Competition in Knoxville last month, the Franklin Robokomodos qualified for the Houston competition for the first time.

It was also the first time a team from Williamson County has won even the regional competition. In 2012, Franklin won the rookie award during their initial season.

Physics teacher Alexander Domkowski, known as Domkow, began the club. At the end of this year he will be retiring, so the chance to compete on the world stage was especially meaningful.

But additional sponsors were needed to pay for the 11 students’ travel and lodging costs at the competition.

Franklin High parent Catherine Brown, whose son, Michael, is the team’s captain, connected with the Williamson, Inc. Chamber of Commerce to seek out additional sponsors.

Adding to the team’s current sponsors, which include Underwriters Laboratories, Schneider Electric, and Franklin Synergy Bank, the chamber connected Brown with Horn USA and APCOM. Each company donated $500 towards the competition costs.

“These are two companies that have participated in every Manufacturing Day and are really great corporate citizens,” Williamson Inc.’s Director of Economic Development Patrick Cammack said, referring to the county schools’ annual tour of local business plants.

According to Domkowski, Houston is not just a competition. In a press release from the school after the regional competition, he called it, “important for the kids because it will change their worldview.”

Domkowski said the competition involves robots handling power cubes in a real-time video game. Franklin High students designed and built the robot that they used in the game.

Three teams compete together against three other teams, in five games each day during the competition. Highest placing teams form alliances and compete in a round-robin style tournament for the overall championship.

Both Domkowski and Brown praised the Franklin school and corporate community for coming together to help raise nearly $13,000 for the team to travel in two weeks.

Other sponsors of the robotics team are RCCH Healthcare Partners, Women on Mission, Wilkins Advisors, Melo Insurance, BEDROC, Lightbend, Stanley D. Lindsey & Associates, the FHS Parent Association and Student Council, and generous individuals.

Brown emailed the Home Page from the competition this week to express her and the students’ gratitude for the community encouragement.

“They only had a couple of weeks to pull everything together, and local support absolutely made this opportunity possible for them,” she said.

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