- Cullman, Alabama

November 30, 2012

Holly Pond team off to robotics competition

By Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times

HOLLY POND — End of the day school bells had already rung, and most everyone at Holly Pond High School had scattered for the day.

By the looks of the parking lot, the only sign of any activity appearing to be going on was at the gymnasium where the Broncos basketball teams were prepping for their next opponent. But in a classroom tucked away at the back of the school were members of the Holly Pond robotics team, who were busy perfecting their material for this weekend’s South’s BEST regional championship competition in Auburn. While there, they will compete against 55 other teams from eight different states, including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

“It’s still a work in progress,” said Chris Cole, head of engineering. “We’re constantly tweaking and critiquing everything.”

In order to participate however, like anything else, it comes with an expense. In addition to the hours spent working to build their product, the team of 63 has also had to hit the streets asking local businesses and people in the community for donations, as well as conduct several fundraisers in hopes of reaching their goal of $5,000 to get them there. Thanks to a $2,000 grant from the Cullman County Community Development Commission (CCCDC) earlier this week, several of the students who likewise wouldn’t have been able to attend will now get to do so.

“This is a non-funded program, and that’s a huge chunk of change we had to raise,” team advisor Wilma Whateley said. “So I would just like to thank them for it because it means the difference in parents transporting their own children and others and us being able to transport them on a bus. Plus, it reduces the schools liability and puts them in a safer position. There are also several students who wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise.”

The group punched their ticket to Auburn after placing first in best overall at the North Alabama BEST Competition at Wallace State in October. They also placed best in eight other categories.

The team is no stranger to the regional championship competition though, as this weekends appearance will mark the third time in the seven years of existence they have participated. The first year, the group finished in the top 15, while last year they earned a fifth place finish, missing the finals of the competition by four points. This year, their hoping for even better results.

“This is my last year, so I personally want to win first,” said senior Trinity Earwood. “We’ve all been giving 110 percent. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into this, and we’re going all out.”

Entering the year, Whateley said this year’s challenge for teams was particularly difficult, but with her group there was no backing down, as they set a goal early on to be in the finals come Sunday.

“This year we built a robot that would climb a 10 foot pole and that could pick up objects and deliver them to a midway point and then get back down the pole in a three minute time limit,” Whateley said. “I told them if you can dream it, you can make it. They began working immediately, just hours after the kickoff in September, brainstorming with ideas. They’re going for the win, and that’s what they’ve done with everything.”

Because allotted TVA monies, along with money from beer and liquor sales was not available at the time of the CCCDC meeting this month, a limited amount of funds were given away during the organization’s monthly meeting Tuesday night. Holly Pond’s  Robotics team was the only group receiving new money. Hanceville Elementary was approved to use the remaining $1,600 left over from a previous project to buy tables to use in a newly fenced in area.

The next CCCDC meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 in the West Point High School library.

* Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at