Rednek team

The Rednek Robotics team 724 from the Sun River Valley Robotics program with students from Fairfield and the Sun River Valley won the FIRST FTC World Robotics Championship in Houston, Texas, on April 21 after four days of intense competition.

Team members include Holter Sand, Winton Fee and Luke Ostberg, all Fairfield High School students, Marshall Kunkel, Carsten Brooks, Andrew Hansen and Lane Hitchcock, from the Sun River Valley. The team is coached by Chuck Merja, with help from several volunteers.

Rednek Robotics World Champion Alliance teammates were the alliance captain M&Ms from Oregon and Technova from Washington. “The finals matches were played in front of over 20,000 fans in Minute Maid Stadium where the Astros play it was quite a celebration and pretty intense,” Coach Merja said.

FIRST Tech Challenge is designed for students to compete head to head using a sports model. Teams design, build and program their robots to compete on a 12-by-12-foot field, in an alliance format, against other teams. Robots are built from a reusable platform, powered by Android technology and programmed using Java or Blockly.

“We have kids from Vaughn, Simms and Fairfield in the club with the three young men who are on 724 all from Fairfield this year,” Merja said. “I took some of the other kids as support and scout other teams.”

The local clubs season began with a game reveal on Sept. 14 where more than 5,000 teams simultaneously learned about this year’s requirements, Merja said.

Prototyping and testing begin immediately for the area team. “Promising prototypes were put into CAD and further tested,” Merja said. “The first qualifiers in Montana were mid-November and early December.” Teams from Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana competed in those qualifiers and eventually the Montana State Tournament which was Feb. 3.

“The area club took three robots to that qualifier and to the state tournament 72041 the Montana State Tournament and went undefeated in doing so,” Merja said.

They also competed in Utah and Idaho state tournaments, all of which were qualifiers for the FTC West Super Regional or the 72 top teams in the Western United States. The Rednecks won the Utah tournament and the FTC West Super Regional qualifying them for the world tournament in Houston.

Merja explained that FIRST has two “Worlds.” The local team won the one in Houston. Last year the winner of Houston met the winner of St Louis tournament three months after those tournaments occurred but organizers have decided not to do that this year, so there will be two sets of champions.

“We’ve been pretty successful the last five years,” Merja said. “We have been in the championship match four out of the last five years and won the championship three out of those four years. We finished last year as the top of FTC and second in this year. And in 2015 not only were World Champs but also help hold the world record for that game.”

Merja invites anyone interested in joining the club or to learn more about the robotics program to contact him at or call him at 799-5955.

Acantha reporter

Acantha reporter