Liam Wiker with team Charged Ups robot innovation project, Gerald. Gerald is an autonomous robot that uses LEGO Mindstorms technology to carry out a series of missions in a robot game. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

KSS Robotics advances to the world championships in Houston

Portage County’s own KSS Robotics 4th-8th grade team, Charged Up 37348, will go on to the FIRST world championships after claiming victory at the state championship in Troy, Ohio, on March 8.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international organization that introduces children 4-18 to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) through the design, construction and use of autonomous robots. FIRST represents over 110 countries around the world.

KSS Robotics is a nonprofit in Kent that offers four separate FIRST-based robotics programs to local children in K-12th grade: First LEGO League Explore for K-4th grade; FIRST LEGO League Challenge for 4-8th grade; FIRST Tech Challenge for 7-12th grade; and FIRST Robotics Competition for 9-12th grade.

KSS has supported FIRST Tech Challenge teams based in Kent and surrounding areas since its founding in 2014 by KSS President Nathan Sterrett, but this is the first time a team from the organization has advanced to the FIRST Championship. This year, the event takes place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, on April 17-20.

Ashvik Papannagari, 11, Greyson Brewer, 10, William (Liam) Wiker, 13, Milo Plough, 10, Neve Plough, 12, Logan Crawley, 10. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Charged Up team members are Greyson Brewer, 10; Logan Crawley, 10; Milo Plough, 10; Ashvik Papannagari, 11; Neve Plough, 12; and William (Liam) Wiker, 13. Their coaches are Josh Crawley, Liz Crawley and Jami Brewer.

This year’s project for the team is a robot named Gud Boi, and their robot innovation project, Gerald. Gud Boi is an autonomous robot that uses LEGO Mindstorms technology to solve a set of missions in a robot game, and Gerald is a prototype robot that uses the Dippin’ Dabble virtual reality hobby library, which allows users to connect to a network and experience various activities through the use of a VR headset.

The general uses for robots in a professional virtual reality context is much different than what team Charged Up uses Gerald for.

“Some robots can be controlled virtually to go into disaster recovery scenarios, or even a store clerk could work remotely to stock a shelf,” Josh Crawley said. “With Dippin’ Dabble, the difference is, we kind of do the same thing as far as connecting to a robot, but we do it for sharing our hobbies and experiences with each other, rather than manual labor.”

Charged Up and Howl Bout It 37575 are the only two FIRST LEGO League teams from Ohio that were chosen to go to the championships in Houston.

KSS Robotics staff and teams. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Charged Up and team Howl Bout It from Cincinnati were started around the same time over nine years ago and have been competing against each other ever since. Josh Crawley said it’s pretty exciting to see both of them going to the world championship to compete against 108 other teams from around the world.

During FIRST LEGO League competitions, competitors are judged upon their skills to design, build and operate Lego robots. They’re also required to give a presentation that exhibits how they employ rational problem solving techniques to overcome real world difficulties regarding the engineering of robots and the processes they carry out.

To score high at championships, Josh Crawley said teams have to exhibit “good robot performance, and you have to have a really solid project, and good core values, which means you have to be inclusive, work as a team, have fun, discover things and, basically, be well-rounded.”

When team Charged Up showed up to the state championship, they were just expecting to hold their ground, learn and have fun; they hadn’t considered they might actually move on to the world championship.

“All of KSS Robotics has been impacted,” Crawley said. “I mean, everybody’s just wowed. Nobody expected this, so we’re still kind of processing. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for these kids and we’re going to make it happen for them, we’re going to get them there.”

KSS Robotics President Nathan Sterrett. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

KSS Robotics President Sterrett said making it to the world championship has been a goal of the organization.

“It builds a lot of excitement for the team,” Sterrett said. “It’s a good opportunity for the kids. They’ll get to mingle with some of the best in this field and future STEM professionals. This level of event gives you a lot of hope for the future.”

But winning competitions isn’t Sterrett’s main focus for the organization.

“It’s not really an organization that’s based on, we have to win,” Sterrett said. “We’re an educational organization first. To me, the reward I get is from teaching kids programming skills, computer aided design skills, project management, how to work together on a team with a complex task and a deadline. It makes me excited for the future.”

Charged Up team member Wiker joined KSS in 2020. Since then, he’s learned how to create and innovate robotic designs.

“I have really enjoyed doing this,” Wiker said. “I really enjoy engineering. They’ve [KSS] really helped me develop my creativity, and I think without the program, I’d probably just sit at home playing video games all day. They give me something to do.”

Outside of KSS, Wiker uses his spare time taking on robotic engineering projects; he recently constructed a bald eagle ornithopter as part of an online build challenge for Trailmakers Creator Program, a 3D physics-based vehicle construction simulator.

If you would like more information about the program please visit their website –

A GoFundMe has been started to help raise funds to pay for the resulting additional expenses of participating in the world championship.

Jeremy Brown
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