COLUMBIANA CO., Ohio (WKBN) – In Columbiana County, three local middle school robotics teams have qualified for a worldwide competition, representing a growing trend in the extracurricular.

Beaver Local Schools’ eighth-grade robotics team is one of the three heading to the 2023 VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas with their robot.

“Kind of a bumpy road to get there and we’ve gone through a lot of changes. Super excited we’ve made it this far,” said Mason Boggs, a member of the Beaver Local VEX Robotics team.

Around 800 middle school teams from as far as China and Japan are heading to the world competition in April.

For these local schools, an interest in robotics has exploded, like at East Liverpool Westgate Middle School.

“I’ve always been interested in engineering and doing stuff like this, so I thought it’d be a good experience,” said sixth grader Cameron Estell, a member of the East Liverpool VEX Robotics team.

Many of these high schools already have robotics teams, but coaches say robotics is a good way to introduce concepts like programming in middle school.

“Even qualifying in the middle school bracket, technically, these are elementary leveled, so for them to be going and doing this is just amazing and awesome,” said Kelsey Dozier, a fifth-grade STEM teacher and robotics coach for East Liverpool.

The kids have to work together to build a robot that can get discs out of different puzzles. It’s not just about programming, it teaches the kids about teamwork, too.

“A lot of team building and working together and coming up with a compromise, so a lot of social skills as well,” said Ashley Sherwood, a co-coach for Columbiana Middle School.

Columbiana Middle School, East Liverpool Westgate and Beaver Local middle and high school teams will head to Dallas on April 30.