Due West Robotics’ FIRST Lego League (FLL) team, The Spartans of T.O.A.S.T., will compete in the FIRST LEGO League World Championship in Houston in April.

T.O.A.S.T. finished first place at the SC West Regional in December, which advanced the team to the state championship on Jan. 11. The Spartans competed against the top 24 robotics teams in South Carolina, and even with a gyroscope malfunction, they were crowned the FIRST LEGO League South Carolina State Champions.

“One-hundred and eight of the top teams in the world at this level and again there’s over 40,000 in the world. To be in that top 108 is just absolutely phenomenal for a rural community of 1,300 people,” Due West Robotics director Charles Angel said.

The World Championship will be April 15-18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

In August, T.O.A.S.T. will participate in FLL’s City Shaper Challenge. The Spartans had a year to build a device that could help their community in public spaces. After talking to a DHEC professional who informed them of the Hepatitis A outbreak in South Carolina, the students decided to create The Germ Tester.

The Germ Tester is a stainless steel box that uses motion sensors, a particular type of UV light called Far-UVC and an LED light bar to kill germs off an individual’s hands. The machine kills germs by cutting DNA — a double helix slice.

Jeff Deal, a UV sanitation specialist, advised the team to protect its idea by using a provisional patent. The teams currently in the process of patenting The Germ Tester.

The members of the T.O.A.S.T. — Joel Logan, Stone Driggers, Adrian Hershberger, David Clarke, Jackson Dunn, Breeden Crawford, Palmer Patrick and Georgia Wojtkowski — all joined the robotics team because they liked to play with LEGOS and they wanted to have fun with others who share a similar passion.

Georgia Wotjkowski and Hershberger’s sisters helped encourage them to join the robotics team, and Georgia Wotjkowski’s sister, Savannah, is a part of Due West’s FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics team, Electron Interference.

Electron Interference finished its regular season ranked first in the Upstate. They will compete Feb. 1 in the FTC League Championship,with the top teams from that contest advancing to the state championship Feb. 14.

“I am proud of how independent these high school students have been and the success they are having. They are competing with teams from much larger areas and holding their own. They have plans to continue improving their skills and abilities for competition and to prepare for their future education and careers,” Angel said.

Electron Interference members — Matt Weyer, Sidney Stone, Savannah Wojtkowski, J.P. Bell, Durrel Willy and Ethan Angel — acquired skills they will continue to use in the future.

Team captain Weyer Bell and Angel are three of four original Due West Robotics FLL team members.

Weyer has spent eight years in FIRST, five years in FLL and three years in FTC, and he does not do a lot of work on the robot, he manages the team’s presentations, projects and notebook. He said he aspires to be an industrial engineer, and plans on minoring in business at Clemson University.

Bell graduated alongside Weyer through the different levels of FIRST, he started with LEGOS and ended up using power tools — drill presses, grinders, belt sanders, etc. — to build robots.

“The main interest for me here is the mechanical aspect, I get to work with different and more advanced pieces of the robot, working on building and designing,” Bell said. “Also leadership skills, I’m the mechanical team captain so I get to lead some, I think it’s really had a good impact on careers that I would have interest in.”

Charles Angel’s son, Ethan, participated in robotics because his father created the team to keep him “doing something.” Ethan’s always been interested in engineering and his role as lead robot programmer has helped his presentation skills, and he can now “talk to professionals much better.”

One of Charles Angel’s favorite FIRST quotes is “robotics is the only sport where everyone can go pro.” While Electron Interference looks towards their futures beyond FIRST, Angel said Spartans of T.O.A.S.T. is “getting ready to jump up to their level.”

T.O.A.S.T. is an acronym for To Obtain Anything Start Thinking, said Angel, and the Spartans are eager to obtain the FIRST LEGO League World Championship.

Contact reporter Jonathan Limehouse at 864-943-5644 or follow him on Twitter @jon_limehouse.