This story first appeared in This Week in Berkeley, our Saturday morning newsletter. Sign up for free.
Berkeley High’s robotics team — joined by a four-wheeled robot named Lithium, a sporty fellow with a knack for scooting zippily and tossing accurately — has qualified for the first time to vie for a world title in the international FIRST Robotics Competition in Houston.
A team of 60 Berkeley High students on the school’s “Berkelium” robotics team spent 10 weeks building Lithium and teaching it how to pick up inflatable cubes and plastic cones and project them into baskets.
Berkelium had a rocky start to its season, losing regional competitions in Victoria, BC, and a squeaker in San Francisco. “Morale was on the floor,” said team member Ebony Elebeck.
But the team had one last shot to qualify for the championship in Sacramento, choosing at the last minute to participate even though it was held on March 25, the day of prom. A number of juniors and seniors had to race back to Berkeley after the competition to attend the dance.
Now the team has three weeks to break Lithium down to wheels and gears and then redesign and rebuild the robot better than ever.
They’re also trying to find sponsors and raise money for their trip to Texas. They’ve been finding success; the team’s $30,000 GoFundMe goal has already been met. Still, said team member Elliot Turner, there are “a lot of bake sales ahead of us.”