Team Phoenix

Members of Verona Area High School robotics group Team Phoenix.

A Verona Area High School robotics team has advanced to a state-level tournament after finishing first place in a regional qualifying tournament Saturday, Feb. 1.

Nine VAHS students designed, built, programmed and operated robots to compete in the head-to-head challenge. In addition to winning first place, the team won another award for bringing robotics into the communities of Verona and Fitchburg through hosting library outreach events.

If Team Phoenix wins the state level championship at the Milwaukee School of Engineering on Saturday, Feb. 22, they will continue to the worldwide tournament.

The team includes VAHS classmates Alan Zheng, Grant Pope, Jared Price, Joe Kleese, Noah Jannusch, Meghna Krishna, Nathan Warner, Nico Hendricks and Anthony Kinney.

During regionals, the team competed against over 30 other area robotics teams in the Knack Attack FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Qualifier at Lake Country School in Hartland.

FIRST Tech Challenge teams are formed by up to 15 students in grades 7-12. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The nonprofit organization seeks to encourage youth interest and participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities.

The nine VAHS students formed an interest in robotics through the BadgerBOTS Education Center located in Middleton.

The team received the Connect Award at the Feb. 1 competition, which is awarded to the robotics team that best connects STEM with its community. Team Phoenix hosted two robotics days at local libraries – one each in Verona and Fitchburg, mentored beginner FTC teams and visited two local businesses – Affiliated Engineers and Placon.

Coaches for the team are parents Ben Jannusch and Andy Price.

“The team worked really hard on their robot design and reliability this year,” Jannusch said. “They stepped up their game strategy, community outreach, and had some fun along the way, too.”

Neal Patten can be contacted at