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HCCSD Team Brings Home Award From First Robotics Competition

The HCCSD robotics team, The Olympians, made its debut in the City Shaper Red Carpet Regional Qualifier competition sponsored by the First Lego League January 25th at St. Aloysius High School in Vicksburg, MS. Eight 6th and 7th grade students from the Gifted Education classes at Williams-Sullivan Middle School (WSMS) and S.V. Marshall Elementary (SVME) programmed an autonomous robot to move on a 4’ x 8’ table model, performing missions such as pushing a swing, moving a stack, lowering an object from a crane, navigating a ramp and raising flags on a bridge. The students programmed the robot using Python language. The students from Williams-Sullivan are Le’Baudrio Bridgeford, Caitlin Cole, Aaron Davis and Simona Cobb. Xavier Hilliard, Ciara Jackson, Zion Johnson, and Lorenzo Smoot represented SV Marshall.

The HCCSD robot performed three rounds. The robot was scored for mission completion and the team was scored for robot design, programming and how well they demonstrated the Core Values of teamwork, inclusion, discovery, impact, innovation and fun. The Olympians’ highest score was 245, which placed them in 5th place overall in their group of 15 teams. The first-place team’s winning score was 340. The HCCSD team earned the Core Values Award, indicating their excellence in modeling the Core Values.

Williams-Sullivan student Le’Baudrio Bridgeford said, “We had several trials with the robot. This was to be expected. It was somewhat frustrating at first, but we worked through it. Overall, I loved being there.”

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 by Segway inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.

According to its website,, FIRST participation is proven to encourage students to pursue education and careers in STEM-related fields, inspire them to become leaders and innovators, and enhance their 21st century work-life skills.

Prior to the City Shaper competition, the HCCSD students researched challenges facing today’s scientists and applied real-world math and science concepts while learning critical thinking, team building and presentation skills. They identified and studied an issue of concern in their local city. The Olympians decided to study land pollution created through litter. Because of their learning, they committed to help clean up the city of Durant by volunteering to clean public spaces two Saturdays a month.

Superintendent of Schools, Dr. James L. Henderson said, “We are so very proud of our WSMS and SVME scholars! Our goal is to continue to expose our students to experiences that are challenging yet relate to real life experiences.”

The students were proud of their achievement. WSMS student Aaron Davis said, “I feel good! I’m happy and surprised the we earned an award since this was our first time. Next year will be even bigger and better.” His mother, Ms. Camona Davis, said, “I’m so proud of the students! Thank you to their teacher for going the extra mile with them.”

Lorenzo Smoot from SVME said that he can’t wait for next year’s competition and classmate Ciara Jackson said, “I had lots of fun. I wish I could start yesterday over and do today all over again.”

HCCSD Gifted Education teacher and The Olympians team coach Kavitha Gandham, said that the results were amazing for a team in its first competition. She said that this experience really gives her optimism for an even better showing in next year’s state-level competition.

District Science Coordinator Dr. Shimelle Mayers was excited and pleased that the first-year team performed so well and increased their confidence. She also looks forward to more learning and increased STEM capacity as the students continue to grow.


1st Row L-R: Simona Cobb, Caitlin Cole, Le’Baudrio Bridgeford, Ms.Kavitha Gandham(Gifted Education teacher), Lorenzo Smoot, Xavier Hilliard 2nd Row L-R: Zion Johnson, Ciara Jackson, Tianna Edwards, Aaron Davis


Le’Baudrio Bridgeford and Lorenzo Smoot launch the robot on its quest to perform its missions as the judge score the round