An underwater robotics team from South Whidbey is headed to an international competition after qualifying in the Pacific Northwest regional event.
The team, which consists of six students between the ages of 11 and 15, recently advanced to the Marine Advanced Technology Education Remotely Operated Vehicle – also known as MATE ROV – World Championship in Longmont, Colorado.
Known as Cyance – a combination of the words “cyan” and “science” – the team has spent the past eight months building an underwater robot. The team’s hard work paid off when Cyance placed second of the seven teams in their division on May 13.
Cyance is part of Atlantis STEAM, a nonprofit robotics club based in Clinton that is not associated with any of the South End schools. Though the club has a shallow tub to “fly” underwater robots in, kids have to make the trip up to Oak Harbor to practice in the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool.
During June 22-24, Cyance will compete against 28 other teams in the “Ranger” division at the World Championships. Yet attending the international competition will be costly, and the South Whidbey team is hoping to raise $15,000, which will cover plane tickets, hotel rooms and other expenses.
Donations can be made by mailing a check to Atlantis STEAM, P.O. Box 187 in Clinton or online by visiting gofundme.com/f/whidbey-robotics-team-makes-world-championship.
Ash Bystrom, the team’s mentor, explained that while no kid has to pay to participate in Atlantis STEAM, they are expected to make a year-long commitment and earn their right to be there. All resources and funding are donated by the community.
“Because of the challenges facing our world, every kid that has that passion needs the access to it because they are the ones who are going to be working and solving for the future,” she said. “It’s up to us to get them as many skills now.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlantis STEAM has spent time rebuilding its teams for competition. This time last year, members of the Cyance team that is headed to the World Championships were just learning how to turn on switches on a motor.
At the Pacific Northwest Regional Challenge, Cyance triumphed over other teams associated with specialized schools, such as the Tesla STEM High School in Redmond.
The team includes Solomon Hilliard, Caleb Arndt, Theodore Alexander, Elliott Andrews, Nicholle Sargent and Opheibia Neff.
“This was a very, very unique experience where we’re able to learn so much about engineering and teamwork that we cannot really learn anywhere else on the South End,” said Alexander, 13. “With the experience that we’re provided here, we’re able to carry it on past what we’re able to do in school.”
“I’m homeschooled, and this is a good opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills,” said Andrews, 15.
“For our first year in robotics, being able to go to World Championships, it’s not normal and we thought we had a chance this year because all the robotics programs pretty much hit the reset button when COVID happened,” said Arndt, 13.