I should have seen it as a sign of things to come: a day after watching the movie "Chappie", about a robot that attains consciousness, I received some good news about the robotics team at Marietta's Walton High School, which is the subject of a story for the March 18th episode of SciTech Now Georgia.

No, the students didn't build a real-life version of the movie's robot. But the team's smart machines did earn the school first place at a regional competition held March 14-15 in Orlando, Fla.

The event was staged by US FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization founded by noted inventor/entrepreneur Dean Kamen to boost STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) instruction for students in grades K-12. Walton High, which has had a robotics team for the past seven years, regularly participates in FIRST competitions, where students are asked to build and program robots for specific tasks.

In Orlando, the Walton students defeated 63 other teams from Brazil, Dominican Republic, Germany and Turkey, as well as states/territories like California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Virginia. Walton also won the event's Chairman's Award, which as explained on the FIRST website "honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of the FIRST program." The Walton team now goes on to the national finals in St.Louis in April.

SciTech Now Georgia congratulates Walton High on its weekend in Orlando, but we can't say we're surprised. The team works hard to design robots, locate parts and build them. They also have to write the programming for their machines. But that's just the technological side of membership in Walton Robotics. They also have to manage the team's business affairs, which includes creating PowerPoint and video presentations for potential sponsors and business mentors. They have to ask for money and guidance, something that older entrepreneurs do on a regular basis.

In that respect, Walton High's robotics team, led by faculty advisor and engineering teacher Brian Benton, is preparing its members for life in the real world. They're getting students with little experience in public speaking to come out of their shells. They're getting female students to consider careers in science and engineering fields. And according to Benton, all sixty students who have passed through Walton Robotics have gone on to focus on science/tech studies in college.

You couldn't script a better commercial for STEM education than the achievements of the Walton High robotics team. Check out our story on the team on SciTech Now Georgia at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18th, and see for yourself.

If the students do end up building a self-aware robot named Chappie, then you'll know where all that intelligence came from.