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Treasure Valley robotics team headed to world championship: 'I was so excited I was crying'

The High Voltage Couch Bananas punched their tickets to the world championship in April after the regional event on Saturday.

BOISE, Idaho — The High Voltage Couch Bananas are the only Idaho student robotics team that will be competing in the world championships this spring.

The Couch Bananas are a team of ten students from different Treasure Valley high school and middle schools that work together to design, build, and operate a robot with a remote control to perform various tasks.

Each of the teams had to build their robot piece by piece. HVCB and 31 other teams traveled to Nampa from across Idaho, Utah, Montana, and Nevada to compete for a chance at the world championship.

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After winning a competition in Utah last week, the Couch Bananas already secured their spot to the world championships but still came to compete for the experience on Saturday.

"I was so excited I was crying. The minute we won that match, I was like, 'Wow, we're going to worlds,'" ninth-grader McKae Connor said.

Building the robots took hundreds of hours to put together.

"Everything we do on our robot is hand-built," said Dillon Houck, a ninth-grader. "I have hours and hours – probably over 300 hours just by myself working on the robot. It's an investment to be competitive but it's definitely worth it."

Coaches and organizers of the championship explain the students are getting hands-on technical experience while also learning life skills, such as problem solving and communication.

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"There are a lot of programs out there that teach the hard STEM skills," said University of Idaho robotics coordinator Robin Baumgartner. "But hard STEM students are not always the most employable students. Employers will tell you that time and again. And so by building both sets of skills, we're making these kids college and career ready."

The students agree, each telling KTVB that these types of competitions have allowed them to grow.

"It really just helps everybody build presentation skills, communication skills and in my case, it's really helped me build leadership skills as a team leader," Houck said. "...not only are they teaching us how to be a better person, but there's millions of dollars worth of scholarship opportunities and it's setting us up for better and stronger futures."

"The people on this team are really outgoing so I've had to make myself more outgoing to keep up with them and that's just become my personality now," Connor said.

The Couch Bananas are still going to the world championships in Houston in April. But they still need to raise about $24,000 to cover their travel costs. If you like to help the High Voltage Couch Bananas, you can donate here.

RELATED: Idaho middle schoolers compete in annual National Science Bowl