RONAN, Mont. -

He's a scrappy little fellow with great balance and tremendous dexterity. He's a robot built by students at Ronan High School students.

They will compete in the World Robotics Championships in St. Louis next month. The team has the highest qualifying score in the nation.

The Ronan robotics team qualified for the world championships in Bozeman in February. Team member Collin Hardy said, "we went in there and swept everyone like it was nothing."

The object of the competition is for the robot to score the most points by emptying baton dispensers and placing the batons in cylinders as fast as it can.

When designing the robot, Troy McMillan thought of a tractor or lawn mower. "I looked at the lawnmower," he said, " and I just saw how the front tipped, so I just started building it."

That tip allows the robot to maneuver over the plywood obstacles in a tournament box without bumping against the edges. It's a smoother run.

Students drive the robot in competition. But in part of it there's no driving at all. It's computer programmed.

Team member Thane Tobol spent hundreds of hours programming the robot. "It was very difficult," he said. Jesse Gray has been teaching some of these students robotics since they were in sixth grade.

Mr. Gray's class is Technology for the 21st Century. The teacher said his students like the challenge of building something, designing it and competing with it.

The robot doesnt have a real name. Just call him 178. That's the team's number. Team member Hunter Shima said, "I think we should keep it."

The world championship is in St. Louis in April. The team is holding fundraisers to send eight students and two adults to the tournament.

For more information contact Jesse Gray at 676-3390 extension 3553. E-mail :jesse.gray@ronank12.edu