INDIANAPOLIS – The euphoric celebration would rival any World Series or Superbowl win.
The teen members of a robotics team called Wooosh from New Palestine Junior High School triumphantly hoisted a giant trophy in the air, cheering after their win at the Indiana VEX Robotics State Championship this past weekend.
The team bested roughly 90 other teams in their grade level, competing at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis on Saturday, March 12th.
Theirs was among a handful of Hancock County robotics teams which qualified to advance to the VEX Robotics World Championship in May, including five teams from the Montessori Science Academy in New Palestine, a Greenfield-Central High School team, a New Palestine home-schooled team and a second team from New Palestine Junior High School.
The VEX Robotics World Championship will take place May 3-12 in Dallas, Texas.
While shuttling multiple team members and their coaches to the out-of-state championship may prove too costly for some, many are hoping to make the dream a reality.
Brian Wheatley, director at the Montessori Science Academy, said all five of his qualifying teams plan on attending and will start discussing fundraising options soon.
Brandon Wilson, who coaches the robotics club at New Palestine Junior High School, said both of his qualifying teams also plan to attend.
“I registered both teams last night, and the check will be in the mail by the end of the week,” he said on Tuesday. “Some parents have already made travel and hotel arrangements.”
Whether you make it to the big dance in person or not, it’s a big deal to even qualify for the world robotics championship, said Wilson. As an engineer for Roche Diagnostics, he’s passed along his love of tinkering with mechanical things to his three sons, all of whom compete in robotics in the New Palestine schools.
His youngest son, Joe Wilson, was on the winning Wooosh team, along with Bryce Thompson and Austin Greulich.
Another team in their robotics club – whimsically named I’m a Banana, consisting of Carson Eyerman, Averitt Mohler, Dallas Robbins and Kasen Roberts – also qualified for the world championships.
A team from Greenfield-Central High School – called Ramrod, which includes team members Noah and Avery Frye and Claire Bishop – also qualified to compete at the world level in May.
A team called Blaze, consisting of two home-schooled seventh-graders – Everett Bishop and Dexter Buckley of New Palestine – also qualified to compete on the world stage in May.
A total of 100 elementary, 96 middle and 50 high school teams from across Indiana qualified for this year’s state championships, which brought together the best of the best in student engineers.
“I continue to be amazed by the robotics opportunities made available for Indiana students,” said Dan Mantz, CEO of the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, an organization that oversees all VEX competition teams and events.
“The Indiana VEX Robotics State Championship is a model for other states to follow, as this event brings a diversity of students from across the state together,” he said in a press release. “This large-scale competition demonstrates what can be accomplished when local and state governments, private industry, education organizations and nonprofits work together.”
The state competition is hosted each year by TechPoint Foundation for Youth, otherwise known as TPF4Y, which provides science, technology, engineering and match (STEM) learning opportunities throughout the state.
As some teams continue tweaking their robots for the world competition, others will be taking a short break before heading back to the drawing board to prepare for next year’s competition season.
Wheatley said his teams plan to take a few weeks off after the world championships before preparing for next year’s game, which is announced at the conclusion of the world championship each year.
For each year’s competitive season, TPF4Y creates a new challenge for student robotics teams. This year’s challenge was to build a robot that can pick up balls and launch them into a tower. The team that successfully launched the most in each competition advanced to the next level.
“We can’t wait to see what they come up with next,” said Wilson, who knows his teams will be anxious to jump right in.
“Robotics is a reiterative process for the students. Throughout the entire season, they will continually improve their robot as well as build completely new robot designs while competing with their old ones, ”he said.
The hands-on coach said robotics is much like any other activity, game or sport.
“The more you practice, the better you are. The more effort and time you put into it, the more likely you are to be successful. Of course luck does come into play on occasion, but these students have put in a ton of time and effort, ”he said.