The all-American FIRST Robotics team from Cottonwood High School included refugees from countries including Brazil, Haiti, Iraq, Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia and Afghanistan. Tagged the “Underdogs,” many of these students have only lived in the U.S. for a matter of months. English is definitely a second language.

The Underdogs were one of 50 high school teams at the annual FIRST Robotics Competition Utah Regional, held at the Maverik Center in West Valley last weekend. The teens received a $6,000 scholarship from Utah First Robotics to fund their project and worked with mentors from AMES, a STEM-based school.

Their goal: To design, build and program a robot that (who?) can collect planetary samples.

OK, not an immediate need—let’s put spacesuits for women on the list first—but one that required scientific curiosity, technical knowledge, imagination, determination and—maybe most importantly—working together.

Something that most of the world seems unable to do. That deserves an award in itself.

Now the Underdogs, awarded Top Rookie Team, are on to the next round.

The FIRST Robotics competition is co-organized with the University of Utah’s College of Engineering and includes teams from all over the world.

For more about STEM programs in Utah schools, click here.

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