04/07/2013 05:51 EDT | Updated 04/07/2013 05:54 EDT

Fort McMurray Robotics Team Heading To World Championships In California


Most high school students stay far away from their school on Saturdays.

However, three teens from Fort McMurray sacrificed their Saturdays and are now representing their school and province at the 2013 VEX Robotics High School World Championship in Anaheim, California.

Westwood Community High School teacher Brian Vaughn is pleasantly surprised at how far the three students have come.

"(They are) very excited (about going to California), this is our first year doing VEX Robotics , so we really had no expectations that we were going to go really far."

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The VEX Robotics competitions program is in place in schools around the world and aims go encourage teamwork, leadership and problem solving among groups.

For team captain Anam Rizvi being involved in robotics has helped guide her future career in mechanics.

"I was really interested in engineering at first anyway, and I just thought it would be cool to have some hands-on experience," said Rizvi.

The team is lead by Rizvi, and includes Nilay Patal and Shubnam Patel, who took home the prize from the Alberta competition in February. Although Rizvi says she "need(s) to win," their coach is just grateful to be able to take part.

"Just being able to go, and to be able to have our robot competing against the best teams in the world," is what Vaughn calls , "an honour."

Patal joined the program to get familiar with the things you need to learn in order to be an engineer. "It's helped me get a feel for what engineering is going to be like."

The program got Patel's creative juices flowing, something he doesn't get from traditional classes in the school. The robotics program, he said, helped him, "...think outside the box."

Vaughn sees robotics as a program that breaks from the norm, and sets kids up for a successful career when they become adults.

"It's a career thing... people are transitioning from football, and basketball, and volleyball, and are looking for something new that's fun and exciting."

The VEX Robotics Competition World Championships will take place at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California from April 17-20.