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It was a robot invasion at the Von Braun Center last weekend.

High schoolers from across the United States – and as far away as Canada and the Dominican Republic – traveled to Huntsville to participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition Rocket City Regional. Fifty teams competed for a spot at the world championships to be held in St. Louis and Houston.

The competition was sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit organization that promotes developing the next generation’s passion in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

“The idea behind it is to not look at it as a club, but as a sport,” volunteer Tyler Brunson, a former competitor, said.

This year’s theme is FIRST STEAMWORKS which incorporates a steampunk aesthetic into the competition. Each team of 10 is challenged to design not just a robot, but a whole brand for their team, spending no more than $4,000 … and doing it in six weeks. In the competition, the robot is challenged to work both autonomously and with operators. The top eight teams advanced to the final competition held Saturday.

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