FIRST Robotics Competition world champion Team SCREAM was welcomed home by almost 200 people on Sunday evening outside its Robotics Operations Center at Smith-Cotton High School, 2010 Tiger Pride Blvd.

The team's bus arrived at 6:45 p.m., and was escorted up South 65 Highway by law enforcement, including Missouri State Highway Patrol, Sedalia Police, Pettis County Deputies and greeted by water sprays by three apparatus from Sedalia Fire Department.

Superintendent Dr. Todd Fraley, Head Coach Michael Wright and several City and County officials congratulated the team, the first Missouri team to capture a FIRST world championship.

“I am immensely proud of Smith-Cotton High School’s Team Scream for their outstanding performance at the 2024 FIRST® Championship. Their victory not only highlights the incredible talent and dedication of our students but also places Sedalia in the spotlight on an international stage. This achievement truly exemplifies how our community nurtures young minds and champions excellence in STEM education. Team Scream’s success has indeed put Sedalia on the map, showcasing the potential and spirit of our city to the world,” commented Sedalia Mayor Andrew Dawson.

In his speech to the world champions, Eastern Commissioner Israel Baeza said ““Give it up for our very own, World Champions, Team SCREAM!”

“Make sure you guys take some time to take it all in, because it’s not every day you get to sing 'We Are The Champions' and be champions of the world. We just want to say congratulations on this great achievement. Thank you for representing Pettis County so well on the national and international stage. Lastly, I just want to say, you have done it once, you can do it again! Congratulations!"

The team returned to Sedalia after winning the championship by being on the winning alliance in Houston Saturday night. Around 600 teams competed.

According to Sedalia School District 200:

Team SCREAM became the first Missouri team to capture a FIRST world championship banner. For the past few years, Head Coach Michael Wright had a goal of reaching the Einstein Field, where the eight division champions face off for the title; Team SCREAM’s alliance won the Daly Division to reach Einstein, then went undefeated in the finals playoffs to claim the crown.
Also on Team SCREAM (4522)’s alliance were Orbit (Team 1690) from Israel, RoboLancers (Team 321) from Philadelphia, and 8-Bit (Team 9432) from Arizona.
In the finals, SCREAM’s alliance went head-to-head with a trio of teams from California, each with multiple FIRST world championship banners.
“Facing off against powerhouse teams like the Citrus Circuits, Cheesy Poofs, and Madtown on Einstein was both thrilling and daunting,” Wright said. “Our primary goal for the season was to reach Einstein, and going up against teams with multiple world championship titles was a testament to the caliber of competition at that level. Despite the pressure, I reminded our drive team to focus solely on our own machine and not be distracted by the reputation of our opponents.”
Team SCREAM robot driver Jackson Sparks was motivated to face off against teams that many consider to be legendary.
“To come from a point earlier in the season where we were struggling to then competing in the finals against these teams at the world championship was really inspiring,” he said. “We like to say. ‘It’s just another match,’ because really, that’s all it is. It doesn’t matter who we play against nor the outcome, we just perform to the best of our abilities.”
This year, teams competed in a challenge called Crescendo, which involved robots picking up foam rings at one end of the field to place in a scoring slot or shoot into a higher goal on the other end. Most alliances had all three robots on the field playing offense, but Team SCREAM’s alliance proved the adage that defense wins championships.
“Our alliance’s main strategy set us apart from others,” Wright said. “Recognizing the value of a robust defender, we tasked Team 321 with disrupting the triple offense commonly employed by other teams. This defensive approach created openings for Team 1690 and ourselves to play a fast-paced, aggressive game. Team 321’s formidable defense was the cornerstone of our success.”
Team SCREAM Captain Parker Ellison said the alliance partners were level-headed and focused, coming together as a unit seamlessly.
“We also were very close as an alliance, always checking in with one another, lending a hand, and even sharing snacks in the pits,” Ellison said. “I think that this was communicated best by a member of 1690, our alliance captains. When an announcer accidentally called us the alliance captain, I joked about it to a member of 1690, who replied, ‘It doesn’t matter because we are together. We are a team.’ This attitude was reflected on the field when we all fell into our positions to pull off the win.”
In the best two-of-three final round, Team SCREAM’s alliance won the first match 119-99. The second match was close from start to finish, and it took several minutes for the judges to confirm the final score.
Wright said, “Waiting for the match scores was excruciating! We knew that it would be a close match score and that there were penalties involved. We’ve seen so many matches decided by 1 point.”
Sparks said the unofficial match score that was posted on the video screen was extremely close, “but we knew that we had them beat. Waiting for the referees to come to a decision was stressful and suspenseful, but also exhilarating. We were a single match away from winning the world championship, so needless to say we were pretty excited. Regardless of the match outcome we knew we had what it took to come out with the win, so we were confident either way.”
Wright was torn between waiting for the official score (123-120) to be posted and getting the robot off the field and back to the pits in case a third match would be necessary.
“I’m glad we stayed on the sidelines. When the scores were posted, the place erupted in celebration with 50,000 people cheering us on,” Wright said. “What an unforgettable moment for our team.”
While Team SCREAM captured the ultimate prize, Team SCREAM Jr. also had a successful weekend at the world championships. Playing in the Johnson Division, the team composed mostly of freshmen and sophomores made it to the division finals before falling short. Wright called Team SCREAM Jr.'s journey this year “truly remarkable.”

Coach Wright spoke with KSIS after the ceremony Sunday evening:

“I am so incredibly proud of our team, our kids, our program, everybody that's associated with this. This is something that we've been working hard for, for many years, and just to be able to come back home as world champions … it really hasn't sunk in what that really means, but it's incredible,” Coach Wright told KSIS. “We're just so glad to be here and celebrate with our community, and seeing everybody cheer us on.”

According to Sedalia School District 200:

Throughout the regional qualifying competitions, Team SCREAM had a series of difficulties. After winning at the Central Missouri Regional to earn their trip to the FIRST World Championships, SCREAM fell short at its next two regionals due to mechanical and electrical issues.
“It was frustrating because we knew that we were capable of winning when our robot wasn’t broken,” Team SCREAM Captain Parker Ellison said. “But every time we ran into a problem, we worked hard to fix them. In our time between competitions, we didn’t rest. We identified our issues and found solutions. We always kept improving.”
Wright said that overcoming those obstacles are among the team’s proudest moments.
“With unwavering dedication, our students addressed every issue, ensuring the robot operated flawlessly throughout the event,” he said.
During the competition in Houston, Team SCREAM’s drive team - the group that operates the robot during matches - never looked at match statistics that provide the percentage of winning a match. Ellison said this was a departure from the regional events, where they obsessed over those reports.
“When we went into the finals, we had no idea that statistically, we only had a 22 percent chance to win the match,” Ellison said. “We just kept our focus on maintaining our robot and playing our best.”

AM 1050 KSIS logo
Get our free mobile app

KSIS asked Coach Wright if, when he left Sedalia for Houston last week, that he could even imagine Team SCREAM bringing home the championship trophy.

“No, no, we had a goal. Our goal was always to win our division and get on the Einstein Field, (since 2013) which is the final finals. We set a goal for every year, and we've been close, and this year, we actually made that goal to get to the finals. And once we got there, we said hey, we're here, let's go after this thing and try to win it all, and here we are,” said a beaming Coach Wright.

When asked how his crew was doing Sunday night, mentally and physically, the robotics coach said that “yeah, they're really tired, but I think they're running on adrenaline and excitement from this weekend, so that should last them the rest of the night.”

Coach Wright noted that 43 students makes the bus trip to Houston, with “a whole entourage of parents, an amazing 'Mom Squad,' administrators, coaches and mentors. So we had an amazing crew supporting us.”

The red-bearded robotics coach explained that time is allowed for each team to fix their robot if anything breaks during competition. There is no “back-up” robot.

“Both robots performed great all weekend, Coach Wright said, referring to Team SCREAM and Team SCREAM Junior.

“Not every team gets to end their season with a win, but since we're world champs, we do, so this finalizes our season. We're going to unpack our trailer, put stuff up, and we're going to celebrate with a big banquet here in a week or so, and then we're going to start planning for next year, because we have a world championship to defend now,” Coach Wright concluded.

“You can't convince me that there's not a correlation between investing in our resources and making good things happen. Look around you, guys. We're moving dirt, we're building things, we're going places. Thanks to everybody here. Thanks to Mr. Wright. I knew I had a winner when I hired him,” Superintendent Todd Fraley said during his speech to the crowd, which answered with applause and cheers.

Rep. Brad Pollitt offered his congratulations to Team SCREAM and recalled that over a decade ago, a young man from Wellington applied for the position of robotics coach for a new program at Smith-Cotton, back when Politt was Superintendent of Schools.

“We interviewed him and we decided he was going to take it to another level. We knew what the potential was. And he left us for a year, and then he called me and said, “'I wanna come back because I miss the kids' so we brought him back, and look what he's done with the help of all the community and all these students,” Pollitt said. “I have contacted the governor's office this morning, and Lt. Gov. Kehoe's office and they both send their congratulations and how proud they are that we are from Missouri and we're world champions.”

Note: Sedalia School District 200 contributed to this report.

Team SCREAM world champions

Gallery Credit: Randy Kirby

More From AM 1050 KSIS