It’s been a whirlwind year for the Shelton High School robotics team, Aldernating Current.

For the first time in the school’s history, the robotics team advanced all the way to the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship in Houston this past April, raising nearly $20,000 in a week and a half to go on the unique trip.

The team competed at the local level in FIRST Washington events in Mount Vernon and Auburn earlier this school year, but it was the first time they advanced to the Pacific Northwest District Championship in Cheney, let alone qualified for the world championship.

“We were extremely shocked,” recalled sophomore Tristin Newby, 16, of the moment the team found out they’d qualified to go to Houston. “Everyone kind of just exploded with excitement. There was a point where I was crying from happiness. I still tear up just thinking about it.”

The nonprofit FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, develops STEM curriculum for students in all grade levels, and at the high school level, the robotics competition challenges students to work together to build and use robots for specific tests.

Since January, Aldernating Current team members have worked hard for nearly five hours a day after school, four days a week, to build and perfect a robot that could perform three goals presented at each of the year’s competitions. 

This year’s theme was“First Steamworks,” evoking a steampunk aesthetic.