Beta Team Wins FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship

West Des Moines Community Schools’ FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team, Beta, won the Inspire Award to bring home the FTC FIRST Robotics World Championship after competing against 128 teams representing 16 countries last weekend in St. Louis. They will be recognized at a press conference with Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds Monday, May 6 at 9 a.m. at the state capitol.

“FIRST Tech Challenge is a life-changing program that goes way beyond just building robots,” said the team’s coach, Emmaly Burklund. “FTC encompasses what our workforce needs including teamwork, critical thinking skills, problem-solving, public speaking, entrepreneurship and direct application of knowledge.”

Beta is among more than 2,500 FTC teams from across the globe, of which just 5 percent advance to compete at the championships. Of that 5 percent, Beta was the overall world champion. The team also beat out 135 Iowa teams to win the Inspire Award at the state competition to automatically advance to the world championships.

Teams are judged on criteria including robot build and design, the engineering notebook, teamwork and community outreach. Beta team members are Jordan Burklund, Daniel Miller, Annie Howard, Chase Schweitzer, Sidd Somayajula, Saketh Undurty and Tanvi Yenna. Dale Herzerg, a technology education teacher at Stilwell Junior High, also coached the team.

“It’s awesome to receive an achievement that not only reflects our performance at the event but our dedication and diligence throughout the entire season,” said team member Chase Schweitzer.

The team was also nominated for the Connect Award, which is judged on connections with local community and the engineering community, and the Think Award, which is given to the team that best reflects the journey the team took as they experienced the engineering design process during the build season through documentation in their engineering notebook. Only the top six in each category are nominated for these awards, and by being nominated in two or more of six award categories, the team was eligible for the Inspire Award and title of FTC FIRST World Champion.

“I am so honored to coach such an amazing team of people that are changing STEM education in our state and around the globe,” added Coach Burklund. “These young leaders are changing the world!”

The team has been innovators throughout the competition season with their tele-connection project, where they were able to ship a robot across the globe and compete with it remotely. During a competition in the Australian Championships, Beta became the first team ever to score competition points remotely.

A sport for the mind, FTC is designed for high school students who want to compete head to head using a sports model. Teams of up to 10 students are responsible for designing, building and programming their robots to compete on a 12’x12’ field in an Alliance format against other teams. Robots are built using a TETRIX® platform that is reusable from year-to-year using a variety of languages. Teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as well as community outreach, design, and other real-world accomplishments. Students get to:

  • Learn from professional engineers
  • Build and compete with a robot of their own design
  • Learn and use sophisticated software and hardware
  • Compete and cooperate in alliances and tournaments
  • Earn a place in the World Championship
  • Qualify for over $16 million in college scholarships

More information on the FIRST Tech Challenge and the FIRST programs can be found at