City of Madera holds parade to honor world champion high school robotics team

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A proud drumbeat marched through the streets of Madera as the city celebrated a world championship for its high school robotics team.

The teenagers who earned top honors have come close before, falling just short in the 2018 finals.

"We figured this is the year for us," said co-captain John Akana. "If we put everything down and everyone puts in the effort we could probably take it down and come out as world champions."

Akana says every student logged around 200 hours of work since January, spending long nights after school perfecting their robot.

They know they come from a relatively small Central Valley town, but they never let the size of the job or the competition intimidate them, and it paid off with a number one ranking, then a big win in Houston last weekend.

"It puts Madera on the map because now we're nationally known and even works, internationally known as far as robotics and automation so that's good for the Valley," said Allan Sanchez.

The team's teacher, Vern Valmonte, wants to make sure this is just a start, not the end of the parades.

"I hope it uplifts the community and helps the kids get enrolled into STEM and manufacturing and robotics and engineering all those classes," said Valmonte said. "And I hope there are more girls who come out and help us out for next year's competition as well."

Academics getting adulation is a little new for these big winners.

They suddenly have the kind of status usually reserved for athletes, but they haven't fully cashed in.

"Anybody score an extra date to prom now?"

"Prom's over, but unfortunately, I had to miss it," Akana said. "That's unfortunate, but you know, I sacrificed it for a world championship."

A sacrifice he'll never regret.
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