In just its first year as a club, the St. Charles Preparatory School robotics team, better known as the CardinalBots, will travel this weekend to a national competition in St. Louis.

In just its first year as a club, the St. Charles Preparatory School robotics team, better known as the CardinalBots, will travel this weekend to a national competition in St. Louis.

The For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics competition, held annually since 1992, gives high school students the opportunity to learn engineering skills as they design a robot that can accomplish specific tasks.

This year's theme is "Rebound Rumble," in which the robots will have to perform tasks that include picking up and shooting a basketball.

FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway.

Teams had six weeks to design, build and practice with their robots, which must weigh less than 120 pounds and cost no more than $3,500 in parts to build.

Steven Miller, the director of St. Charles Annual Fund and the club's adviser, got the idea to start a team this school year after talking with a friend who works at Honda Marysville.

"I felt like it would be a great opportunity for St. Charles to have a robotics team because we have so many bright students," Miller said. "The existing engineering program was so popular ... we thought if we started the robotics programs, we could offer the students a different type of experience because the robotics is more hands-on."

St. Charles students partnered with their neighbors down the street at Columbus School for Girls, who have had a robotics team for 10 years. CSG acted as a mentor to the St. Charles group, sharing building space at Ohio State University and guiding the team in its first year.

"They were our mentor; we went to a lab week with them," Miller said. "We kind of rode their coattails going in."

During the regional competition in Cleveland, St. Charles paired with CSG as one of its partner teams.

"We decided to pick CSG because they allowed us an opportunity to get started," Miller said. "It came full circle and it built a great sense of camaraderie and reciprocity between CSG and St. Charles."

The CardinalBots earned the Rookie All-Star award at the Cleveland competition and a bid to the nationals.

"It was really unheard of for a team like ours to win the rookie award in Cleveland and qualify for the nationals in our first year," Miller said.

The team of 12 students named its robot DC 40, in honor of Principal Dominic Cavello, who will retire this summer after 40 years with St. Charles.

Sophomore Wyatt Belts is the driver of DC 40. The biggest challenge, he said, is maneuvering around the other teams' robots.

"You have to work together without getting in their way," Belts said. "You have to work out a strategy."

Building the robot and learning what it's like to work alongside professional engineers are the best part of the club, said team captain Jason Adkin.

"The experience you get out of it are skills that will just take us throughout life," said Adkin, a sophomore who hopes to attend OSU and major in mechanical engineering.

CardinalBots members will earn varsity letters for their participation, Miller said.

"You don't have to play sports to letter at St. Charles," Miller said. "It's truly a blessing and an honor for these young men to represent St. Charles and Ohio."

About 50,000 people are expected to attend the event and the entire competition will be streamed live on YouTube, Miller said.

For more information on the U.S. FIRST competition, visit the website usfirst.org. For more information on the St. Charles robotics team, visit the website stcharlesrobotics.com.