PIERSON, Fla. — For the very first time in school history, students at T Dewitt Taylor Middle High School went to state competitions for robotics. Just as their team has grown in its short 3-year history, the field of robotics is also growing and offering new opportunities to students post-graduation.

What You Need To Know

  • T Dewitt Taylor Middle High School is located in a rural part of Volusia County, where staff say historically it's been difficult to entice students into robotics or related fields

  • Despite only consisting of a handful of students, and their team only existing for a few short years, students were able to prove their skills and head to state competitions

  • Robotics is a growing field with many options for careers, according to officials at UCF

  • Data from the International Federation of Robotics shows the total number of robots sold for professional use increased by 48 percent in just one year

The small town of Pierson, Florida, was buzzing with excitement after a small group of teens were able to hold their own and make it to state competitions this month.

Pierson, which is known as the “Fern Capital of the World,” is a distinctly agricultural community.

“Getting kids involved in robotics and programming out here has been a struggle,” said Jonathan Herstein, a T Dewitt Taylor Middle High teacher and sponsor of the club. “But they just kept fighting. They just kept doing things and getting better, and got over a lot of their fears.”

Students say they spent many hours outside of school to get their robot together.

“It’s an after-school club, so there’s not much time here at the school to really do a lot of building,” said 8th-grade robotics team member Sebastian Kavanah. “Most of the time we take it to my house and we do a lot of building in my dad’s garage.”

Originally, students jokingly dubbed their robot I.N.G, standing for “It No Go.” However, the robot did not live up to its namesake after it did go, winning the Innovate Award, which led them to state competitions.

During state competitions, the team learned they would not be heading to national competitions this year. However, officials at UCF say succeeding in robotics is all about trial and error.

“When you work with robots, failure is bound to happen. You are going to fail,” said Dr. Crystal Maraj, UCF Assistant Research Professor. “It’s taking that failure and turning it into success. That’s really where we want to hit, and failure around the way — just part of the process.”

UCF is currently training the next generation of robotics specialists and engineers. Dwight Howard II, who heads up their robotics club, says the field has a wide range of opportunities for those willing to learn.

“People are really scared of how advanced robotics is, and a lot of people don’t realize how simple it can be,” said Howard, President of the Robotics Club of Central Florida at UCF. “Robotics can be anything from the automation of a device, all the way up to a full self-driving car.”

UCF officials say chip and car manufacturing are fast-growing industries in the U.S., offering many job prospects to future grads.

Worldwide, the field is growing. According to the International Federation of Robotics, the total number of robots sold for professional use increased by 48 percent in just one year.