Girl Power Leads AquaBots


Three fourth-grade girls learned last weekend what it means to excel. They did it so well that they received an award for it.

The trio of Oak Grove Upper Elementary School students are Madelyn Courtney, Elliot Walsh and Mica Shemper – The AquaBots. They are one of the 14 Oak Grove teams that competed in the VEX IQ State Robotics Tournament this weekend at USM’s Payne Center.

Coached by Oak Grove Lower Elementary teacher Michelle Courtney, The AquaBots won the highest award in the state: Excellence Award.

Michelle Courtney, the mother of team member Madelyn, is the second- and third-grade EXCEL teacher at the school.

With the award, the team will be representing Oak Grove Upper Elementary and the Lamar County School District at the upcoming World Robotics Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, along with Jacob and Katie Roark (the TwinBots) from Oak Grove Upper Elementary.

The Roark twins won the Teamwork Champions Award and the Skills Award. Another OGUE team that earned special recognition is Jacob and James Riles, the BroBots. They won the second-place Skills Award. The AquaBots and TwinBots are currently ranked in the top 50 teams world-wide out of 3,000 teams.

Michelle Courtney said the AquaBots have had an exciting time with their Girl Powered-robot.

“They also recently got a VIP tour of Ingalls Shipyard from engineers,” she said. “Ingalls showed their school logo and team name on their digital banner.”

The girls have also been taking 3D printing classes at USM after school with Assistant Professor Anna Wan at the Eagle Maker Hub Lab. The AquaBots interviewed the inventor of a naval firefighting robot from Virginia Tech and created a replica of the firefighting robot out of 3D printed parts. The AquaBots have been representing their school and district well this year.

The AquaBots are one of only eight teams from Mississippi that will be advancing to the national tournament.