Travis named Innovation Award recipient at National Robotics Challenge


CHS junior Abagail Travis, and her robot “Sonny,” was designated as the 2019 Innovation Award winner by Honda at the National Robotics Challenge.

Circleville High School – On Saturday, April 13th, Circleville High School junior Abagail Travis and her Rescue Bot “Sonny” were named the recipients of the 2019 Innovation Award at the Honda National Robotics Challenge held in Marion, OH. The Innovation Award is the national competition’s highest distinction awarded to a competitor and student engineer and as a part of the honors, she takes home a $500 reward for her robotics class.


“Robotics is the thing I want to do for my career,” said Travis. “That is where I want to be. It is my No. 1 passion. Getting that award means I am excelling at something that I love.”

Under the direction of robotics teacher Joshua Thomas, Travis’ Rescue Robot was in contention with 11 other nominees at the competition and was ultimately selected for the award out of 444 robotic entries overall. After being nominated on Day 1 of the two-day competition, Travis and her Rescue Bot “Sonny”, had their own booth set up where an engineering team from Honda came around to judge their build and interview them.

Unlike many competitor entries, Travis’ robot is made from scratch with 3D printed plastic filament that she designed and coded herself. Ultimately, it was her innovative design that won the engineers and panel over in route to taking home the competition’s top honors. 

In building such a detail-oriented robot, the process certainly does not come without its challenges to overcome – something Travis credits to the support of her favorite teacher Mr. Thomas.

“If you are in Math class and you need help your teacher will walk you through the steps of the problem to get there,” said Travis. “With [Mr. Thomas]? He is just kind of like ‘figure it out.’ Half of the time if you ask him a question he will just say ‘figure it out’ because if he thinks you are capable and believes in you then you are going to figure it out. You also have resources other than him to use [as a student]. You can ‘Google it’ and look up code or whatever you need to do to figure it out because you are going to have those tools in real life when this is an occupation. He is super encouraging and my favorite teacher.” 

While the Innovation Award Travis received is a part of independent judging, the robot also competed in the Rescue Bot competition on the first day. 

In the Rescue Bot competition, the participants “build a remote-controlled vehicle able to operate within an 18-foot long and 10-foot wide playing field. The vehicle is to travel the field and pick up four colored ping-pong balls from four holding devices (pick pylons) locations and place them into a receiving jig (drop pylons). The event is intended to simulate the environment a robot might be required to navigate in the event of a building collapse.” View complete contest rules (here).


With roots dating back to 1986, the National Robotics Challenge has been held annually at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Marion, OH. The competition, open to students in 6th grade through graduate school, features low-cost designs and engineering and offers students a way to collaborate, innovate, and make collegiate level connections in the pursuit of a STEM career.


Congratulations to Abagail, Mr. Thomas, and the entire Circleville High School robotics team on their outstanding showing at the 2019 National Robotics Challenge!