From left, Kirstin Fink, Kaleb Lange, Zach Lander, Eli Carrington, Nick Fink and Alexis Miller stand with their award from the VEX Robotics Design System
From left, Kirstin Fink, Kaleb Lange, Zach Lander, Eli Carrington, Nick Fink and Alexis Miller stand with their award from the VEX Robotics Design System Competition in Westminster, Md. (Submitted photo)

For Zack Lander, it's a long, hard road to California.

Since June, Lander, 18, and his seven Tech Storm Robotics 4-H Club Swag teammates had several disappointing contest results.

The team -- with members from eighth grade to high school -- either did not place or not finish first at VEX Robotics Design System Competitions in Maryland, Delaware and Philadelphia.

But things finally came together for the team March 9 at the Carroll County Agricultural Center & Shipley Arena in Westminster, Md., where the students won first place and a spot in VEX Robotics' world competition.

The event will run from Wednesday, April 17, to Sunday, April 20, at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif.

"When we won in Maryland, I said, 'No way! No way we're going to California!'" said Lander, a senior at Central York High School. "We traveled a long, hard road to get to California."

Help needed: However, to get to California the team needs to raise at least $12,000 to cover travel, lodging and food, said Scott Lander, Lander's father and Swag team coach.

Scott Lander said he, a club leader and a couple of parents will be traveling with the team. Scott Lander said funds are needed within the next couple of weeks so that he can have time to arrange for flight tickets and lodging.

Some of the money also will be used to purchase robotics project parts needed for the world competition, which includes about 400 teams, Scott Lander said.

He said he is proud of the team members' perseverance and accomplishments and wants to see them finish

their VEX competition season in California.

"There's a lot of excitement in what you get to do, what you get to see and getting to meet others," Scott Lander said. "It's a trip of a lifetime."

Besides the younger Lander, the Swag team members are Eli Carrington, 18, a senior at Central York High School; Kirstin Fink, Cameron Fry and Alexis Miller, sophomores at West York Area High School; Zach Randolph, a junior at West York; Nick Fink, an eighth-grader at West York Area Middle School; and Kaleb Lange, eighth-grader at Spring Grove Area Middle School.

The competition: They started working on their VEX robotics program in May, Scott Lander said.

The metal robot -- about 18 inches long, high and wide -- features four wheels, conveyer belts and Plexiglas. The robot must move small sacks on a playing field.

The team has to develop and run a computer program that will control the robot. They also operate the robot with remotes similar to video game controls.

Carrington said he is excited about competing in California for his last 4-H competition as a high school student.

"It's more about what we'll experience there, getting a lot of insight from other teams," he said.

Lander and Carrington said they plan to use their 4-H experiences as students of Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

Lander said he plans to major in mechanical engineering and business with hopes of starting his own engineering firm or designing roller coasters.

Carrington said he plans to study graphic and web design to work for an ad agency.

"From being on the robotics team, there's a lot about communication I've learned and about problem solving," he said. "That will be helpful to me at school and in the future."

--Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.