CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — As Southern Utah’s hometown internet service provider, pioneer in wireless connectivity and premier fiber provider, InfoWest is always looking for ways to advance tech innovation.
InfoWest has long been a dedicated supporter of the Team Without a Cool Acronym, also known as TWCA. This group of young engineers are on a mission to become better friends, mentors, engineers and ambassadors of STEM and robotics in the local community.
“One of our goals at InfoWest is to improve and build the technology sector here in St. George, and increase the opportunities for STEM-related fields,” InfoWest marketing manager Thomas Dyches said. “It feels like there’s just a huge need, so we’re doing our best to fill that.”
TWCA takes flight
TWCA is an award-winning FIRST Tech Challenge Team based in Hurricane. FIRST is the more commonly recognized name of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, an international youth organization that operates robotics competitions, Lego leagues and tech challenges designed to inspire students in the engineering and technology fields.
The team is comprised of eight youth innovators between the ages of 13 and 17 plus several adult mentors. Once a week, TWCA gathers at the Atwood Innovation Plaza on the Utah Tech University campus to design and build robots that meet the specific criteria of each competitive season.
“They’re always tweaking the machines or building new parts for the upcoming competitions,” Dyches said. “The competition is getting stiffer because they’ve done so well that other teams want to get in on it. They’ve really had to ramp up their efforts and try more complex robotics.”
From local stardom to nationwide recognition
TWCA’s 2022-2023 competitive season was their most successful yet. The team won two local qualifying events in Hurricane and Provo and earned a slew of awards at the Utah state championship, which qualified them for a second consecutive appearance at the FIRST Championship in Houston. Competing against teams from around the world, they took home the first-place Think Award in the Franklin Division.
“It’s a pretty big deal for the kids to go to a world championship and be in that environment,” Dyches said. “We want to support them so they can continue to stay on top.”
TWCA’s theme was inspired by the beloved animated series “Phineas and Ferb” and the main characters’ pet platypus, Perry. After receiving considerable media attention for their accomplishments, the team has actually connected with the show’s creators and continue to collaborate with them on various projects.
Supporting the dream
TWCA is funded entirely by fundraisers, sponsorships and donations from generous businesses and individuals in the community. InfoWest has sponsored the team since 2021 and is proud to help them go from a Southern Utah team to a team known across the world.
A founding principle of TWCA is promoting STEM opportunities for Southern Utah’s youth. The team spent over 1,800 hours during this past season presenting their robots both in person and virtually as well as volunteering in the local area, reaching over 100,000 people.
Anyone interested in contributing to TWCA may visit twcarobotics.com. Follow the team on Instagram @t.w.c.a. or email teamwithoutacoolacronym@gmail.
Expanding STEM opportunities in Southern Utah
InfoWest further strives to inspire the next generation of tech leaders by sponsoring Kids Innovate, a free STEM camp for Washington County students ages 7-12, every summer. This year’s camp, held on June 23, was the sixth annual and the largest yet, so InfoWest expanded operations to the Atwood Innovation Plaza.
A total of 60 students participated in educational activities about how the internet works as well as hands-on learning experiences like 3D printing, freeze drying and making solar ovens to cook s’mores. The kids also received special presentations from TWCA and Wilson Electronics, the St. George-based company best known for developing WeBoost.
“The more we do this, the more it grows,” Dyches said. “We feel like if we can get the youth involved and expose them to the fun of STEM, it’ll ultimately bolster the local tech community.”
From the early days of dial-up to the future of fiber, InfoWest has evolved, adapted and remained on the cutting edge of internet technology in Southern Utah. Investing in the communities they serve has also become a company tradition over the years, and they don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
Learn more about InfoWest’s products, services and community outreach on their website.
Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.
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