Frau POW pushed its aluminum weight around the pit at the FIRST Robotics Competition in Las Vegas.

That in and of itself was a huge victory for Wiesbaden High School’s robotics club, which was competing in its first robotics games.

"We built a machine from our own idea, we designed it, improved upon it, then competed," said Frank Pendzich, the club’s adviser. "There’s a lot of satisfaction in that."

In the Las Vegas contest, teams and their robots had to scoop and throw balls, among other feats.

The Wiesbaden rookies and their 118-pound Frau POW scored points over nine matches, knocking out some more experienced robot builders en route to finishing 36th out of 54 teams at the tournament, which wrapped up March 28.

"I feel we did pretty good for our rookie year," said senior Darren Jennings, 18, one of 11 Wiesbaden students to make the trip to Las Vegas.

Wiesbaden was one of two schools from Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe to compete. AFNORTH International School in the Netherlands placed 46th in the competition, according to Pendzich.

The two DODDS Europe robotic clubs walked off with two awards, AFNORTH for innovative design and Wiesbaden for safety, according to Pendzich.

After working with AFNORTH behind the scenes last year, Wiesbaden’s robotics club flexed its gears in January when teams received a kit of raw materials and had six weeks to design, construct and ship a robot ahead of the competition. About 30 students were avid club participants, Pendzich said.

One particular moment with Frau POW stands out for Jennings: "When we finally got it to work the first time in the hallway, there were screams of joy."

Building a robot was a labor of love. The club had to raise its own funds, collecting about $11,000 through bake sales and generous donations to pay for robot components, shipping and other expenses associated with the contest, Pendzich said.

The club plans to build another robot next year, while also helping Aviano High School in Italy start up a similar program.

"We’ll work like a corporation does," Pendzich said, "sharing information, ideas via the Internet."

The goal isn’t to build robots but engineers, he added.

"I now have 11 kids interested in becoming engineers," he said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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