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Red Bay High School developed this robot that uses FaceTime to bring a home-bound student into the classroom. The technology won the Red Bay Robotics team first place in the Shoals Spark competition. FILE/TimesDaily

FLORENCE — Red Bay High School produced the top two winners of the Shoals Spark competition recently, while Muscle Shoals middle schoolers swept the top three places at the elementary/middle school level.

The competition, which was formerly known as the Big Idea, is designed to foster innovation and entrepreneurship by getting youth to generate unique ideas on how to make the Shoals a better place to live and work.

Last week's finals at the University of North Alabama resulted in two teams from Red Bay winning first and second places.

The Red Bay Robotics Team placed first with its robot that allows home-bound students to participate virtually in classes at school through FaceTime. The winning team members were Savannah Shaw, Matthew Williams, Cameron Burks and Brooke Shotts.

The field of more than 30 competitors was narrowed to 10 for last week's finals.

The second-place high school team from Red Bay High School proposed the Wee Care clothing line for premature babies. The clothing would accommodate the various hospital equipment and tubing, yet still allow parent bonding. That team's members were Elizabeth Markham, Emily Clements and Kaylee Markham.

Third place went to Tamia Jackson, of the Muscle Shoals Career Academy.

Shaw, a senior at Red Bay and member of the winning robotics team, said there were many good ideas but her team's stood out because it has already been proven to work.

"It's more than just an idea, it's an invention that (the judges) could actually see working. It's already a project in motion and being used in our school," she said, adding that the team won $500 to be split among the four members.

"We believe this can make a huge impact on the school system by increasing student attendance with this equipment," Shaw said. 

The robot also won in the recent State HOSA competition, qualifying the team to attend the international HOSA competition in June in Dallas.

In the elementary/middle school division, first place went to a four-member team of seventh-graders who won a total of $750 to be split among them, which included a $250 crowd favorite cash award. Those team members are Josh Banister, Will Phillips, Riley Davis and Whit Martens.

The team's idea was to establish an area-wide wind ensemble for middle school students. The band would be a year-round endeavor.

Riley Davis said the group also has a private investor who offered full funding for the band project in the amount of $5,000.

"We're excited to see this project actually happen," Davis said. "We saw a need in our band class for this. It would involve kids from all around and allow them to grow musically beyond the normal school programs. The size of the band would depend on how many try out. We want to start it before school ends this year so we can practice this summer and begin playing some concerts and maybe some area festivals."

Muscle Shoals Middle school student Lindsey Conner won second place in the competition. Third place went to the team of Jo Don Anderson and Anthony Rutherford.

Runners-up in the high school category included Gage Isbell, of Colbert County High School, and Nathan Pegram, of the Muscle Shoals Career Academy.

Elementary/middle school runners-up were McKenna Crisler, of Leighton Elementary School, and the team of Gage Sherrill and Dillon Edwards, of Muscle Shoals Middle School.


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