Turtle TEK poses with their well-deserved trophy, the Inspire Award, which is the highest honor any team can receive at the qualifier. Front row (from left): Heather Schneider (coach), Katherine Woodard, Kelby Schneider, and Noah Hahn. Middle row: Garrett Schneider, Xavier Miller, Loretta Woodard, and Jordan Shultz. Back row: Nathan Wilder (mentor), Ted Wilder (coach), and Isaac Kabutzke.  [Submitted photo]

Local high school robotics team advances to Wisconsin State Championship March

Turtle TEK, a second year locally-based FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team, was recently selected as one of 25 teams to advance to the Wisconsin State Championship, which will be held on Saturday, March 2, at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE).

Turtle TEK is a second-year team composed of eight middle and high school students from the stateline area. The team consists of Jordan Shultz and Xavier Miller from Beloit Memorial High School; and Isaac Kubatzke, Loretta Woodard, Katherine Woodard, Noah Hahn, Kelby Schneider, and Garrett Schneider, all of whom are home-schooled students. Students come from Beloit and Clinton in Wisconsin, and Poplar Grove and Winnebago in Illinois.

Turtle TEK recently competed at their first event of the season. The Neo-Titian qualifier was held at Brookfield East High School on Jan. 14. The team finished the robot game as the fourth-ranked alliance captain, selecting Screws Loose, a rookie team from Golda Meir School in Milwaukee, as their partner. The teams were eliminated from play by the winning alliance. In judged awards, Turtle TEK won the second place Connect Award. The team that wins the Connect Award actively seeks and recruits engineers and explores the opportunities available in the world of engineering, science, and technology.

The team was incredibly honored to be awarded the first place Inspire Award. The Inspire Award is given to the team that best embodies the “challenge” of the FIRST Tech Challenge program and is the highest award a team can earn. The team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and a role model FIRST team. They are a top contender for many other judged awards and are a gracious competitor. Only nine teams in Wisconsin will be awarded this prestigious award this season, and Turtle TEK is excited to have done so as only a second year team. Because they won the Inspire Award, they earned a bid to the Wisconsin State Championship for the second year in a row.

FIRST Tech Challenge students learn to think like engineers. Teams design, build, and program robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams. Robots are powered by Android technology and students code using Java-based programming. By participating in FIRST, students gain confidence to explore the innovation process while learning valuable science, engineering, technology, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. Participants and alumni of FIRST programs gain access to education and career discovery opportunities, connections to exclusive scholarships and employers, and a place in the FIRST community for life.

Turtle TEK is sponsored by Hendrick’s CareerTek, Wisconsin DPI Robotics Grant, The Morse Group, NOHR, Shorewest Realtors, Gene Haas Foundation, Fairbanks Morse Defense, and MSOE. The team is incredibly grateful to these companies for their support, in particular to Hendrick’s CareerTek for not only funding, but also practice space. The team would also like to thank their mentors Kellen Randson, Meghan Ziemba, Bob Abele, Erik Rozolis, Nathan Wilder, and Mike Schneider for all the time they have given to help the team learn. The team is coached by Heather Schnieder and Ted Wilder.

Turtle TEK will next compete at The Thumb Wars on Monday, Jan. 29, in New Berlin. For more information about FIRST robotics teams for students in grades 1-12, or to help sponsor Turtle TEK, please email FTCTurtleTek@gmail.com.


Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs provides accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $80 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition for students in grades 9-12; FIRST Tech Challenge for grades 7-12; and FIRST LEGO League for grades preK-8 (ages 4-16; age vary by country). Gracious Professionalism is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.

To learn more about FIRST, go to www.firstinspires.org.