Saline Middle School Robotics Teams Win State Titles


Three Saline Middle School Robotics teams recently won state competitions, and one team will be heading to the world competition in Houston, Texas in 2024.

The SMS Cybugs, SMS SWARM, and SMS Hornet Hackers all finished in first, second and third place at a competition in Bedford in November. The Cybugs went on to take the state championship at the competition in Howell on December 16 and December 17th.

“I felt this was a valuable thing for Saline schools,” said Jeroen Spitael, lead mentor for SMS FTC Robotics. Spitael has been a lead mentor for eight years.

“This year’s game was called Center Stage. Basically, our bots had to be able to collect a three inch pixel game element and place it on the backboard of the field. The more pixels you place, the more points. If you place the pixels in specific patterns or higher up on the board, you get bonus points. That’s kind of how the game is played,” Spitael said.

“The Cybugs are the one team that will be going to World in Houston, Texas in April of 2024,” he said. “It’s an expensive undertaking. It is a five day event, so we will be doing fundraising and reaching out to the local community to try and get sponsors to help offset the costs.”

“All three teams basically have had an absolutely wonderful season,” Spitael said. “The way the season works is that we have a six week build season where we build and design robots, program and test and practice with them. And then we start competing.”

SMS Robotics are members of the south central Michigan Robotics League. All three teams went to the qualifiers at Bedford in November. SWARM ended up winning the alliance in the playoffs at the state championship, but ranked sixth place, just missing the invitation to the top five finalists who will attend the World competition next year.

“Overall, finishing one, two, and three at Bedford, finishing as a finalist at the alliance league events, and then all three teams making state, has been an awesome season. We also held the world record score for the past two weeks,” Spitael said.

Spitael is happy to volunteer his time to Saline’s robotics program, knowing that it is benefitting students as they pursue their future studies.

“The whole STEM piece of that to me is super important. When you think about how many kids are going to be professional athletes after they finish school, or how many are going to be successful engineers making contributions to the big tech firms in the world, that number is going to be a bit higher than the number of professional athletes,” he said. “Robotics is just a fun way to do it. Kids love video games. They are able to drive these robots with a video controller. They are basically playing a video game in real life, in a sense.”

Spitael is happy with the success of this year's teams, and looks forward to mentoring more Saline Middle School students in the future.

“I’m very proud of what they’ve achieved this season. We hope to keep doing this for years to come.”

For more information on the robotics program, contact Jeroen Spitael at

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