DALLAS -- Members of the LaCreole Middle School robotics club team, "Nerd Herd," were running out of hope as the top teams were announced at the group's inaugural First Lego League competition on Dec. 12.
Announcers were reading the names of the placing teams in reverse order, with the winning team at the regional tournament in Corvallis called out last.
As the second-place team was announced and it wasn't Nerd Herd, adviser Hank Schmidt and his team were afraid they would go home empty-handed.
"I thought, 'poor team,'" Schmidt said. "I just felt so sorry for them."
Then he heard Nerd Herd's team number announced. The team had placed first in its first official competition.
"I was up and shouting," Schmidt said of his surprised reaction. "I embarrassed my wife and the team."
The win gives the LaCreole team a chance to compete at the state tournament Jan. 15-16 in Hillsboro.
For the competition, each team is required to build and program a Lego robot to complete tasks on a competition field. Teams are judged on proficiency of their robots, a presentation relating to the biomedical theme of this year's competition, and teamwork.
Given their inexperience, neither of LaCreole's two teams was expecting to place high.
"I was expecting a third- or second-place trophy," said Ty Brewen, a Nerd Herd co-captain. "I was really happy when we won first place."
LaCreole's other team, "Pachy Pack," can be proud of its performance, too.
"I didn't expect our robot to do much worth mentioning," said Pachy Pack team member Jarod Van Dusen.
Fellow team member Maurice Dalton said he had the same worries but was pleased to see his team's scores in the early rounds.
"It turned out we were really high up," he said.
Although by the end of the competitive rounds the team hadn't placed, it was happy to be presented the "Rookie Team Award" at the competition. Pachy Pack likely won't compete again this year, but will continue to practice, Schmidt said.
Brewen and co-captain Reed Lowery said Nerd Herd will soon begin fine-tuning its robot and biomedical presentation for state.
At a party celebrating their accomplishments this year, however, Nerd Herd members took time to appreciate their victory.
"We were surprised," team member Wesley Tornow said. "It was amazing."