Niles robotics team, High Voltage, wins state championship Feb. 24

Published 9:45 am Tuesday, March 5, 2019

NILES — A Niles robotics team is gearing up to take their skills to the next level after claiming a state title late last month.

The High Voltage robotics team went head-to-head against more than 70 robotics teams Sunday, Feb. 24 at the VEX Robotics Competition at Michigan State University. The team was awarded the state championship title. The win also followed a season of being undefeated.

Meg Edwards, a coach for the team, summed up how the win felt to achieve.

“It was awesome,” she said. “They worked really hard. This team has been together for four years. They have worked to get better every year.”

The team includes Sam Jager, a homeschool high school student from Stevensville, Daniel Brennan, a homeschool student from Niles and Tristan Millar, a Niles High School student from Niles. High Voltage now has the opportunity to compete in a national competition in Iowa and potentially on to the World’s competition in Kentucky.

To win the state competition, the students had to design, build and program their robot to complete a number of complex tasks to earn points, including picking up plastic balls and firing them at colored flags.

Jager has been involved in local robotics for many years and also competes with a Niles team in the FIRST robotics competition. Jager said he sees his tenure on the local robotics team as a way to gain valuable experience in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. He plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and is already dual-enrolled at Lake Michigan College to help him achieve that goal.

Learning to work as a team is another major skill Jager said he has gained through his participation in robotics.

“That’s why people like hiring people out of robotics,” Jager said. “It’s because they know they can work as a team.”

Jager sees the strength of his team first hand every time he competes.

This past competition when Jager was driving the robot, the sound of the cheering crowds surrounding the playing field seemed to drop away as he concentrated intensely on the playing field. While his focus helps him during the competition, his team also helps keep him grounded so that he can see the bigger picture, he said.

“That’s why I have other people up there [near the game floor], too,” Jager said. “To help make strategic decisions, rather than just focus on one thing. When I was driving the robot, I see the robot and a little bit around it. I won’t see stuff on the other side of the field unless it is pointed out to me.”

In addition to winning the title, High Voltage also earned the Amaze Award from judges, which recognizes robots with exceptional control centers and autonomous programming. The team who takes home the award has also impressed judges with their skills in general, Jager said.

With the national competition looming, Jager said High Voltage would be working out the kinks on their robot design, hoping to acquire some better parts and practice driving the robot.

Edwards encouraged the community to support the High Voltage team and donate funds to help cover entry fees and travel expenses. Those interested in giving to the team can call Edwards at (269) 591-2231 or email at