The Malibu High School (MHS) robotics team in April became one of the top teams in the world, up from a comparatively low (but still impressive) 77th ranking following the world championships in 2016.

The MHS robotics team placed 15th in its division, 11th in the world in its skills challenge, and No. 5 in the world for its programming skills — a sizable improvement from its 77th place last year and a big accomplishment for the five-man team comprised of seniors Sam Burton, Izzy Putterman and Jaime Le, junior Louie Putterman, and freshman Ben Burton. 

This past April 19-22, the MHS robotics team competed for the second time at the VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville, Ken. and made school history.

“The competition went really well. We competed at a higher level than we have ever done before and we were able to out-compete the majority of other teams. Our record last year at Worlds was 3-7, which placed us in 77th place in our division. This year, we flipped that record, going 7-3, putting us in 15th place in our division,” explained Le, who also competed last year in the tournament. 

Through a series of round robin tournament matches, teams competed against each other and attempted to throw the most three-dimensional stars and cubes across a fence before time ran out. With challengers from around the globe, the MHS team fought hard to represent Malibu on the world stage. 

“The whole event was a great experience,” captain Sam Burton noted. “We competed with teams from across the globe, including China, the U.K. and the UAE. It was also good to reconnect with the teams we’d gotten to know through the season ... One team we had competed with — and tied with before losing to them in the finals — went on to win the whole competition and become the world champions.” 

With international competitors came a whole new standard of competition. Putterman explained that the team was not only able to rise to meet the high standard, but was able to exceed it. 

“There were definitely some brilliant robots that took the design approach to a new level,” Izzy Putterman said. 

First-time world competitors Louie Putterman and Ben Burton saw opportunities for MHS robotics’ future.

“[The tournament] was cool to see all the different teams with all their robots ... It was fun being on the team this year, and hopefully next year we can get to worlds again,” Ben Burton said. 

Louie Putterman, who is following in his brothers’ footsteps, is the third member of his family to make history on the MHS robotics team; his brothers Harry and Izzy both competed in the 2016 VEX Robotics World Championships.

“It would be amazing for our robotics program to be able to reach the world championships three years in a row, but this will take a lot of work,” said Louie Putterman.

With the help of coach John Burton, a lifelong programmer, and advisor Brian Corrigan, the team was able to make their mark on the international level.

“Overall, I think in the end [this was] an improvement over last year … It just shows their dedication to the hundreds of hours they put in and John Burton put in. Just like last year, they worked a ton,” noted Corrigan, who also teachers physics and engineering at MHS. 

These accomplishments did not come easy. With language barriers among the teams and primarily an initial issue with the static of the fields, which slowed many robots down, the MHS team was forced to think on their feet and quickly came up with alternative methods to continue on in the tournament, according to the Malibu team.

Malibu seniors are hopeful that the two-year-old MHS robotics team will continue on long after they graduate. 

“Jaime, Sam and I have brought the club to a good spot. Ben and Louie are going to lead the club next year and hopefully more people join in,” Izzy Putterman said. 

“My main hope is that this robotics program becomes a large and integral part of our campus and society of Malibu High,” Le concluded.

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