Viola High School students make history

Photo: Courtesy Areawide Media.

As the academic year was winding down, a group of students from Viola was making history being the first team from the district’s high school to enter a robotics competition.

Areawide Media reports the FIRST Robotics Team #7483 rookie team with the nickname “Mechanically Challenged” consisted of Callie May, Kenzie Hart, Ethan Meredith, Jessie Hendrix, Skilar Sherril, Rebecca Wyatt, Ryhlea Casteneda, Jason Davis and Caden Meredith.

The students were a combination of senior physics and volunteer members of the computer science programming class. Team leaders/mentors were Sandra Cooper (science) and Kevin Thrasher (computer science/business).

According to, FIRST® Robotics Competitions are for students in grades nine through 12. The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership.

Funding for the first year Viola team was provided by FIRST’s Rookie Team Grant, Arkansas FIRST/Department of Work Force Education Rookie Team Grant and a few local sponsors.

Cooper says prior to last school year, students in physics at Viola High School participated in the Electric Vehicle Competition/Rally sponsored by the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. Citing funding and liability issues (there were a couple of close calls and a minor accident), the cooperatives decided to change directions and encourage teams to participate in FIRST Robotics instead.

Approximately 1,500 students competed in the 2019 Arkansas Rock City Regional FIRST Robotics Competition in Little Rock, including Viola’s rookie team. The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas partner with Arkansas FIRST, a volunteer-based, non-profit organization, to provide students with access to competitive robotics education programs.

Photo: Courtesy Areawide Media.

Though the team did not advance to nationals, the mentors say the students learned a lot and had a great experience trying something new.

Hart’s job on the team was to melt wires together, becoming lead on soldering and wiring. Meredith, another senior teammate, says the mission of the team’s robot was to maneuver around in space.

Meredith says organizers had what was dust storm mode to start the competition, and the students were not able to see anything.

The seniors who competed in the competition expressed disappointed they only had one year for the activity.

As a result of competing this year, Cooper and Thrasher are hoping to open the team to additional students next year.

Photo: Courtesy Areawide Media.

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