Cavalier Robotics

Austin Chinn (left) and Nate Winter, both sophomores at Tandem Friends School, inspect their robot during an open house hosted by Cavalier Robotics at the University of Virginia Robotics Lab on Sunday.

Robot engineering and coding might seem complex, but that doesn’t stop the Cavalier Robotics team, which held a recruitment open house Sunday.

The group of about 25 high school students from Albemarle, Greene, Nelson, Fluvanna, Orange and Augusta counties and the city of Charlottesville competes as Team 619 in the national FIRST Robotics Competition.

With the help of adult and college student mentors, the high-schoolers work to build and program a 120-pound robot that can complete various tasks.

Founded in 2001, the team begins its season in August, preparing for the competition period, which runs from January to March. Students don’t just handle engineering and coding — some also work on the business side, including website design, social media and planning.

On Sunday, returning team members were playing with last year’s competition robot at the University of Virginia’s Observatory Mountain Engineering Facility. Students cited the team’s camaraderie and seeing the robot come together over many weeks as their favorite things about the program.

Lead mentor Christina Burkhart has been involved with the program for three years. She said students who first get involved with engineering through the robotics team often go on to study it in college.

“We’ve had several students go on to study engineering at Virginia Tech after graduation,” Burkhart said.

Last year’s team saw unprecedented success, winning its first Innovation in Control award. The team also won an award for industrial design.

According to Burkhart, one thing that sets Team 619 apart is its wide range of students. Unlike teams from individual schools, Team 619 is open to students from all over the area, including public, private and home-schooled students.

While some students come in with previous robotics experience from middle school, it’s not uncommon to join the team without experience, Burkhart said. The team is seeking passionate students who are interested in engineering, coding or business.

The team also is looking for businesses to become sponsors.

Students or parents looking for more information can visit the team’s Facebook page at A second open house is planned for 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 9 at 765 Reservoir Road.

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