Four members of the Woodbridge HS JROTC Robotics Team and coach

“Imagine going from never thinking you could build a robot to competing on the national stage in Dallas, Texas against all the other JROTC teams in the country,” marveled Carlos Castro, robotics lead at Woodbridge High School. “From zero to full speed ahead in one season.”

Since 1993, the Army Junior Reserve Officer Corps (JROTC) Honor Unit with Distinction program at Woodbridge High has developed leadership, citizenship, and community service skills. This year, they added robotic skills.

Woodbridge JROTC has qualified to compete in the JROTC National Championship in Dallas, Texas from April 17-29 as part of the host VEX Robotics Competition.

As the Army JROTC programs now have a new STEM technology curriculum in some of their lessons, the cadets persevered after a late start and tumultuous year of learning and growing through robotics.

They are the only JROTC VEX robotics team in Virginia. In VEX tournaments, a team's individual score can be high enough to gain an invitation to the national championships. The JROTC Robotics crew competed in several events and continually improved their individual scoring ability to the point they earned an invite at the end of the regular season, nationwide. In local tournaments, they stayed competitive and even led throughout a few tournaments. Climbing the rankings, the team has overcome the odds and placed repeatedly in state level competitions.

“This team represents a new beginning for STEM within the JROTC ranks,” remarked Castro. “They are their own squad with their own resources. We let them come, build, and play in our room.”

The team is ranked 40 out of 250 teams in the country, and given the competitive nature of northern Virginia, it has a lot to be proud of. As newcomers, the JROTC group has made their mark with a memorable inaugural year.

The young team now plans their trip to the championship in Dallas, Texas. The veteran of the team, Cadet Sgt. Austin Williams, and team captain Cadet 2nd Lt. Nick Ippolito believes the leadership training in JROTC has propelled the team to develop into a solid team. Williams stated, "Seeing how much this team has grown just in one season is remarkable. They went from knowing nothing to now traveling to Dallas, Texas. Seeing how motivated they are to do well at nationals. I could not be prouder of them.”

According to the Senior Army Instructor and team Coach, LTC (Ret.) Burnette, “I am amazed each day by the leadership and robotic skills of the cadets. I also am so thankful to the business partners and individuals that donated funds for the cadets to travel and compete. We wish them the very best.”