Two student teams from the North Carolina School for the Deaf traveled to Concord on March 6 to participate in the North Carolina VEX Robotics Competition State Championships.

The two teams—the Deaf Bears and the Signing Paws—were among 35 teams entered in the tournament, and both scored in the top half of the pack during qualifying rounds.

The Deaf Bears included teammates Eilish Duran and Patric Duran of Maiden, Hunter Isaac of Newland and Angel Volovar of Morganton. The Signing Paws included Solimar Bonilla of Concord, Haley Futral of Morganton, Cody Hollar of High Point and Gustavo Lucha of Asheville.

David Bird, Jeff Lintz and Dr. Jana Lollis traveled with the team and assisted in transportation and supervision. NCSD Director Dr. Audrey Garvin traveled with them, too, providing support for the team and signing at the event.

VEX Competitions are designed as an inclusive, collaborative STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — activity that includes the merging of unfamiliar students from other schools as teams in a competitive event working toward a common goal.

The motivation of competition was a powerful driving force, said Lintz, and the sportsmanship seen amongst teams would make any teacher, coach or parent proud.

Lintz said both NCSD teams had a lot to celebrate.

As captain of a three-team alliance, the Signing Paws received the finalist trophy for NCSD, as did the other two schools in their alliance — an awesome addition to the finalist trophy they won in the regional competition.

The Deaf Bears were awarded the Judge’s Award for their presentation and interview, earning NCSD the second straight Judge’s Award – in both regionals and state.

Altogether, in two competitions, the two NCSD Robotics Teams won four trophies in their short existence of a little more than two months, and they were captains of alliances in both championship matches.

“I enjoy taking my students to these events where they compete and are seen as equals with their hearing peers. This is what I think inclusion is about,” Lintz said. “In the VEX competitions they are accepted and included and demonstrate that they belong. When their hearing peers come to them for advice, as well as to share advice, it benefits all.”

NCSD prides itself in offering its students the opportunity to participate in broad choices of curricular and non-curricular activities. These choices include their integrated programs with Western Piedmont Community College and STEAM Academy of Burke County, as well as their extracurricular activities such as their robotics club. They also have the opportunity to participate with their deaf peers from throughout the United State in events such as the Academic Bowl, the Mason Dixon Tournaments and a variety of other sporting events.

The NCSD robotics teams received outstanding support from the NCSD Foundation, which made sure the students had the funds and materials to participate in the events.

NCSD plans to expand its robotics program next year to include elementary and middle school students, and school leaders are hopeful that they will be able to participate in the VEX competitions and share the experience.

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