POPLAR SPRINGS - When a leading robotics team was robbed of a few items while on its way to a national STEM competition last month, individuals from throughout the region responded with financial gifts of support.

"We raised over $2,600 through the GoFundMe page and other small donations," said Laura Wells, teacher at Poplar Springs High School and assistant robotics coach. 

In addition to the funds from the crowd-fundraising page, a donation of $3,000 provided immediate relief and toppled the $4,000 goal.

"This just means the world," she said, glancing down at the check. "It really does. These boys and Mr. Paul - there's nobody that works harder than them."

Wells launched the campaign after Poplar Springs High School recent graduates Joseph Godwin, Bryson Potts and their robotics coach Trey Paul, discovered their laptops had been stolen out of their vehicle while at a stop in Atlanta on their way to the International SeaPerch competition last month being held at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

SeaPerch is an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) competition, in which, the students have won at the regional level for three consecutive years.

"I thought maybe the community would come out again for this, and it did," Wells said.

The lump sum donation came from area businessman and politician Allan Bense.

"It's always gratifying to try and help people who are doing everything they can to better themselves and make their community a better place," Bense said. "Here you have students going out of their way on their own time to participate in high-level tech activities with teachers willing to help them, and someone steals their equipment.

"We all know there are some bad people out there but we really want them to know and remember that there are also a lot of good people around, and that people who work hard and do the right thing are more likely to have things go their way," he added. "The community had already pitched in, we're just reinforcing that the path they've chosen is a good one."

Wells said the feedback from the team was one of gratitude and surprise. And, although the team did not win in the robotics competition, Wells said everyone was glad because - despite the robbery - they were able to successfully operate their robot and represent their school, region and state with pride.

"The community came out and the really helped us," Wells said. "This means everything to them, it means everything to me."