Surprise-based LAUNCH Robotics team wins region

4 team members attend Paradise Valley High School, 3 live in Peoria


LAUNCH Robotics is a community-based non-profit in Surprise.

Their FIRST Robotics Competition team won the Regional Chairman’s Award for Arizona and Nevada at the May 8 Southwest Region Awards Show and is in the competition for the global championship later this summer.

Student Noel Robertson won the FIRST Dean’s List Award. And the rookie FRC team we helped start also won the rookie game design award.

FIRST is a non-profit organization For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. They host robotics programs for students in grades K-12. The LAUNCH team is unique because, rather than being associated with a high school, this team is community-based and accept students from across the Valley who are interested.

FIRST was founded in 1989 as a way to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

Team member Demari Hackett recently graduated from Valley Vista. Hackett also was a starting forward for the Monsoon boys basketball team.

“Demari is an extremely smart kid. He’s going to Embry Riddle for engineering and basketball,” said Valley Vista basketball coach Ben Isai said. “I was blessed to coach him.”

Noel Robertson, one of four LAUNCH TEAM students from Paradise Valley High School in Phoenix, also lives in Surprise. She advances to the championship level to compete internationally for the Dean’s List Winner Award on June 26.

LAUNCH TEAM also includes three home schooled students from northern Peoria, one student from ASU Preparatory Academy in Phoenix and a student from Horizon High School in Scottsdale.

Stephen Robertson, Noel’s older brother, formed the team in his home town five years ago. He graduated from Arizona State University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science, Engineering in Electrical Engineering.

“We won this award because of our team’s outreach to rural and underserved areas of the valley to bring robotics and other STEM activities to children in the community. This included partnering with the SciTech Institute to mail out STEM kits to students as part of the SciTech Festival, and loaning classroom packs to a school in Wittmann,” Stephen Robertson stated in an email. “One of our students and my younger sister, Noel Robertson, won the FIRST Dean’s List Finalist award for her personal devotion to STEM.”

The city of Surprise has been a big supporter of the team since first discovering them at the city’s 2018 SciTech Festival. It has been offering meeting space through the AZTechCelerator and provided grants.

And this is not the team's first award

The Surprise Community Outreach Program helped Mr. Robertson start the FIRST Tech Challenge program at Paradise Honors Middle School. That has since expanded into a second team.

For interest in joining the Surprise robotics team, email Mr. Robertson at