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North Carolina robotics team uses a ‘different code’ to communicate with each other

By Caitlyn Penter

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    MORGANTON, North Carolina (WLOS) — A foothills robotics team works differently from some other robotics teams but achieves just as much.

In this week’s Carolina Moment, News 13 introduces the North Carolina School for the Deaf’s (NCSD) robotics team in Morganton. Last week, the school’s team competed in a national competition with the hopes of qualifying for the world championship.

“There’s 21 different teams competing from all over the country,” said Jeff Lintz, the instructor.

Teammates communicate with each other using sign language.

“It’s just fun when we chat with each other we give each other a hard time, but when it’s time to work and focus, then that’s important,” said Jada Hill, a senior on the team.

In this past week’s competition, the goal was to get their robots to score the most points. This year the competition was virtual due to COVID-19.

“It’s more complicated, and it takes a lot more technology. We have the big screen so they can watch. We have another screen where they get to talk to the referees,” Lintz explained.

Since the event was a livestreamed competition, not only did they have to watch their robots, but also all of the screens involved with the process.

Teams competed in different rounds with one team on either side of one screen. There was another screen for the referees. The room was divided between boys and girls teams. Each also had their own screen.

It was truly a team effort to keep up. There was also a lot of nervous energy in the room.

“Just making sure it does everything I want it to do, and it’s got to be real specific,” said Tie Barnes, the team captain, about his robot.

They started building their robots at the beginning of the school year.

“I just have to tell myself stay calm, don’t let my emotions get involved, and if my emotions get involved, I’ll make mistakes,” Barnes said.

Barnes said they had something to prove.

“Yes, I want to win and be able to show that, hey, just because we’re deaf doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. We can do anything we want to,” Barnes said.

It is more significant than robotics with this team. Teammate Magritte Cher moved to North Carolina from Liberia last year. She didn’t know sign language.

“Being with my team watching everybody else sign, like I said working with Christian, which is my teammate, he and I work together so everybody signs, so it helps,” she said.

Hill is the only girl on the boys’ team.

“Yes, I’m the only girl the first time ever,” Hill said.

One of her jobs is taking pictures for the team. This year is nostalgic for her as it is her last year. When she was a freshman, she got to go to this competition with the girls’ team when it was in person.

“We were able to communicate with deaf individuals, and there was such a connection there, and at that time we just had a really good day. There was no COVID, there was no pandemic, and that championship we got the chance to go to worlds,” Hill said.

They compete like any other robotics team. It’s just when compared to a hearing team, they use a different code.

“It shows we can build robots. We don’t have to depend on anybody, so I just really believe in myself,” Barnes said.

One of the NCSD team’s earned a design award that qualified them for the VEX Robotics World Championship 2022. That will take place in May.

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