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MadTown Robotics best in world

Courtesy of Madera High School

The alliance of Madtown Robotics team 1323 won the FIRST Championship on April 20 in Houston, Texas.


Top ranked globally this season, MadTown Robotics now can be called a world champion.

Four California teams — Madera, Atascadero, Burlingame, and El Segundo — were the FIRST Robotics Competition winning alliance for this year’s game, “Destination: Deep Space,” presented by Boeing this past weekend.

“It’s only been a couple of days since it happened so I think it’s just so surreal to think that we actually did it. We competed against everyone around the world… Over 5,000 teams… and we beat them,” said team captain Roger Villagomez, who was also a co-driver and pit crew member.

The FIRST competitions brought more than 15,000 students from around the world to Houston, Texas, as well as more than 33,000 people as spectators.

The most challenging part of the competition was keeping focused, said team alumni R.C. Chahal, lead mentor for MadTown Robotics. The team returned to their hotel rooms late each day and woke early the next morning — sleeping for only three hours a night.

“It was brutal. It was hard to stay awake at times,” he said. “Then the biggest thing was we were number-one ranked going in. So everyone knew: go play defense on the big blue bot. So every match we broke something new. We broke stuff that we’ve never broken before.”

That included items “we didn’t bring spares for,” he said. “So we got in big trouble. We had to fabricate some crazy things to make some of our mechanisms even work.” Some repairs had to be made a minute before the next match began.

John Akana, main driver and lead manufacturer, felt the team made a huge jump in competitiveness due to “the amount of work we put in towards this robot from … 2016 all the way to 2019.”

The team designed its robot with the aid of alumni and mentors and then machined all the parts for its robot in-house. “We spent night after night manufacturing all these parts in order to get ready for assembling the robot,” he said. Nights of practicing with the robot followed.

Looking ahead to 2020, the team is now seeking 7th and 8th graders, as well as competitive students at other high schools, who would like to be on the team next year. “It’s hard to find kids that have a desire for winning,” said Chahal. “Because you can teach everything else in the world but you can’t teach someone how to have a desire for doing something.”

Madtown Robotics’ official sponsors were Madera Unified School District, West Coast Products, JBT FoodTech, The Brin Wojcicki Foundation, PG&E, GBS Hardware, Evening Lions, Madera District Fair, Kiwanis Madera, BK Lighting and Madera High School.

Math teacher Alan Hollman founded MadTown Robotics at Madera High School in the fall of 2004. Team members have been students from MHS, Madera South High School and Sherman Thomas Charter School.

Visit to learn more about the Madera team.

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