McFarland Robotics Team Makes Kern County History At World Championships

Thursday May 2, 2024

For the first time in history, a Kern County robotics team has taken its place among world champions, finishing in the top one percent of teams worldwide. The Mech-Farland CougarBots reached the quarterfinals at the annual VEX Robotics World Championship Saturday, April 27, in Dallas, Texas.

McFarland High School Early College seniors Yasir Rubio, Francisco Vejar and Eric Ontiveros competed against nearly 1,000 teams from more than 40 different countries. The CougarBots demonstrated essential robotics skills such as excellence in coding and driving ability. 

Led by coach David Cisneros and co-advisor Ryan Chavez, the CougarBots advanced to the world championship after qualifying through state and national championship competitions, beating out teams from across the region, state, and U.S.

McFarland Robotics team CougarBots: Yasir Rubio, Francisco Vejar and Eric Ontiveros

In fact, it was an experience at the 2024 CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship in Council Bluffs, Iowa that, according to Cisneros, gave the team valuable insight and switched up their game to give them a competitive edge at the world championships.

“We saw teams there that were going to compete at worlds, so we ended up completely revamping the robot after that,” Cisneros said. “Without that, I don’t think they would have made it as far as they did.”  

According to the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, the VEX Robotics Competition is the largest and fastest growing junior high and high school robotics program globally, with more than 20,000 teams from 50 countries competing.

This is the second trip to the world championships for the CougarBots and represents their highest-ever finish in the competition. It’s also the first time a team from Kern County made it to the quarterfinals.

Cisneros called the competition the final sprint in a yearlong marathon for the CougarBots. He says the three seniors put in long grueling hours all year long to perfect their robot, including staying after school and working over the weekend. 

The students even passed up a special milestone achievement in order to participate in the tournament. Two of the three seniors earned their Associate’s degree through McFarland’s Dual Enrollment partnership with Bakersfield College, and they decided to skip their early college graduation celebration to compete.

“I think these boys really found their passion and they do it because they love it and enjoy it,” Cisneros said.

With continued hard work, dedication, and perseverance, this achievement could be the first of many for McFarland’s fast-growing robotics program.

By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.