The historic Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade got something of a 21st century update this year. The unofficial kickoff to the holiday season was launched not by a New York City official or rosy-cheeked reveler — but by a robot instead.

Named "SONIC," the robot was devised by students from The Woodlands High School in Texas. Some 35 of them, all members of a local robotics club, developed SONIC as part of a competition led by FIRST, a non-profit with the goal of encouraging youth participation in science and technology fields. While SONIC was bestowed the honor of cutting the ribbon to start the massive celebration, he wasn't alone: five other 150-pound robots built by student groups across the country were tasked with shooting confetti along the parade route.