March 4, 2023 — The excitement of sport combined with the rigors of science and technology brought together 1,400 high school students along with their 44 life-sized robots to test the power of collaboration and measure the effectiveness of innovations for the Hueneme Port Regional FIRST Robotics Competition. The Port of Hueneme is host to the competition that will take place over two consecutive weekends from March 4-5 and March 11-12.

Jess Herrera, President of the Oxnard Harbor District addressed the students before the start of the competition by stating he was very proud of the skill and determination on display.
“Don’t be afraid to make a mistake because that’s how things progress in life,” Herrera said. “To the students, I salute all of you. You’re talented and be very proud of your outcomes.”

Photo above: CBF check presentation to FIRST Robotics Competition (left to right): Port Hueneme City Mayor, Bobby Martinez; Oxnard Harbor District President, Jess Herrera; FIRST Robotics Event Organizer, Velma Lomax; Port Hueneme City Councilmember Martha McQueen Lejohn; Ventura County Supervisor Vianey Lopez; and Armando Gonzales representing Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s office.

Several Ventura County high school teams competed in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition including teams from Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada as well as international teams from Mexico and the Netherlands.

“We started with two teams here in Ventura County and we now have 15 teams. We know what participation in robotics competitions do for kids,” said Velma Lomax, event organizer of FIRST Regional Director of Southern California. “They find out they have a family with FIRST Robotics so that’s why we do this.”

The theme for this year’s competition, presented by HAAS, is entitled “CHARGED UP” to unlock the power of engineering to transform renewable energy and power a better future.

FATHOMWERX staff are serving as mentors by assisting teams of students and their teachers throughout the competition. FATHOMWERX is a collaboration between the Port of Hueneme, Economic Development Collaborative, Matter Labs, and Naval Base Ventura County. The lab provides a physical collaborative space where government, business owners/entrepreneurs, and academic stakeholders can innovate, experiment, and transfer/transition capabilities.

“Robotics and automation are important building blocks of the future, and we are proud to co-host this event at FATHOMWERX and see how these students are pushing the technologies and capabilities forward in very innovative and creative ways,” said Alan Jaeger, Ventura TechBridge Director, Office of Research and Technology Applications Manager, NSWC Port Hueneme Division.

Port Hueneme Mayor, Bobby Martinez said, “This is a special experience and lifelong memory for everyone. The truth is these students are our future.”

During the opening ceremony, the Port of Hueneme and the City of Port Hueneme presented a check donation to FIRST Robotics in the amount of $5,000 from their Community Benefit Fund. The CBF was established in 2015 by the Port of Hueneme and the City to achieve the mutual goal of enriching the community through a spirit of collaboration. The Port and City crafted an agreement that states if the Port’s annual revenue exceeds $13 million, a total of $100,000 in Port funds is allocated to the CBF. The Port and City then come together to vote on how to invest this funding in the community. They unanimously agreed to support the robotics competition.

“The Port is committed to community enrichment,” said Kristin Decas, CEO & Port Director. “Since the Port’s inception, we have embraced a legacy of trade and engagement by having a meaningful impact in our communities. CBF is one of the ways we are able to forge partnerships that benefit the public by bringing funding to programs like the FIRST Robotics competition.”