Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories about the Union F.U.N. First Robotics Competition challenge team, which it its rookie season, earned the chance to compete in the World Championship event in St. Louis.

Imagine walking into a giant arena for the very first time, looking around and realizing your rookie team is vastly outnumbered – and then doing so well against the more than 50 other teams from several states that you become one of only a handful of teams in all of Iowa to advance to the World Championships.

That’s exactly what the Union High School’s F.U.N. (Fiercely U-knighted Nation) 6630 team did at the Iowa Regional First Robotics Competition last month at the UNI-Dome.

While Union has entered teams in the FTC (First Tech Challenge), a similar robotics event but with a smaller machine, in the past, this is the first season for Union in FRC.

Now, the team members and adult mentors are busy preparing for the World Championships later this month.

And yes, it is literally a World Championship – they’ve seen the map.

Union’s students will arrive in The Dome in St. Louis on Wednesday, April 26, and spend the next three days competing against around 600 teams from all of Europe and Asia (with the exception of China, which joins Africa, South America and the rest of the world at a Houston event). Teams from Great Britain, Japan and former members of the Soviet Union are all expected to be in St. Louis.

The members of Fiercely U-knighted Nation (with their school mascot replacing “United” in their team’s name) gathered in the Union shop area to discuss their project, and their success.

They did well as a rookie team, winning five of nine matches and being ranked 22nd out of the 54 teams.

But they did well enough in their matches to get the attention of one of the top teams, the Duluth East Daredevils, who invited them to join their alliance, along with Thunder Robotics from North Dakota.

Together, the three teams advanced to the finals of the Iowa Regionals, and finished in 2nd place.

This success was good enough for the Union team to earn the Wild Card spot and qualify for the World Championship.

Fund-raising

The team has spent approximately $14,000 this year, much of that on entry fees. Among the top sponsors in the John Deere Foundation. The team also has set up a Go Fund Me page. See that page HERE.

You can also learn more about the team, and see many more photos of their competition and robot, on their Facebook page or on the web site they created. See that page HERE.

Coming next: What the team members and adult mentors – and the founder of the competition – say that FRC means to them.