Hamilton County students prepare for robotics world championship

Come early May, 10 student-led teams from Hamilton County will travel to Dallas, Texas, to compete in the VEX Robotics World Championship – the largest international robotics competition, according to Guinness World Records.

The teams are made up of students from the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, Chattanooga Christian School and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, as well as students from all over the Chattanooga Valley community, a total of 30 students in all.

They’ll compete alongside more than 1,000 teams from all over the globe.

“It’s a lot like a sporting event. But it’s all based around robots and programming and understanding how to work to get the most out of your collaboration with your team members, but also with the team that you’re collaborating with, your alliance team , “Scott Rosenow, a teacher and robotics trainer at Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, said.

Some teams will compete in the VEX IQ Challenge and others the VEX Robotics Competition. The difference between the two is the robot platform, Rosenow explained. VEX IQ is geared toward elementary and middle schoolers and uses plastic robots instead of metal ones, he said.

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Hamilton County students prepare for robotics world championship

This will be the fifth year that teams from schools in Hamilton County have competed at the world championship.

“To get to this point, our teams had to say no to spending their time on other things competing for their attention. Additionally, some of our teammates have been doing this since middle school, and there’s been a lot of failure leading up to this. “Failure is the greatest teacher, if you’re willing to learn from it and don’t let it defeat you,” said Matt Monaghan, Bible school department head and robotics trainer at Chattanooga Christian School.

In March, 18 teams from Hamilton County attended the state competition in Nashville, and 10 moved forward. In all, 26 different spots were awarded to teams from across the state of Tennessee to go to the world championship, Rosenow said.

For the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts high school team, it’ll be the students’ first time competing in the VEX Robotics Competition, meaning they had to acclimate to a whole new platform.

“I got to take a lot of knowledge I knew from VEX IQ, and I was able to use it in this. So, it was hard, but I think it was worth it,” said Rithvik Siddenki, 16. “Building is, I would say, a lot more difficult in this, as well as driving. “

The Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts team has four members, each with their own role. Anna Clark, 15, heads the programming and engineering notebook. Edward Ziedins, 17, and Jerald Arden Freeman, 17, oversee robot design and build. And Siddenki drives the robot during competition.

The four have been participating in robotics since they were in fourth grade, with Rosenow as their coach.

VRC matches are played on a 12-by-12 foot square field. Two alliances, one red and one blue, composed of two teams each compete in matches consisting of a 15-second autonomous period followed by a driver-controlled period lasting 1 minute and 45 seconds.

The goal is to score more points than the opposing alliance by moving objects to their side of the field and driving the robot on an elevated, seesaw-like platform at the end of the match.

“What I really liked about competitions is that I just get to see what everybody else does and how they’ve overcome different challenges over the entire season. And it’s just a good time to meet other teams and talk to them and see how similar our challenges were, “Ziedins said.

At times it can be difficult when students are paired with teams from other countries who don’t speak English. In the past, they said they had to use Google translate, drawings or interpreters.

“It’s all computer-generated matching or pairing. You don’t get to choose who you partner with,” Rosenow said.

For the past 20 years, Tennessee Valley Robotics and Volkswagen have worked to bring robotics education to more than 50 local public schools and numerous private schools in the area. The nonprofit group supplies materials, equipment and training to teachers to incorporate robotics into science, technology, engineering and math or STEM classrooms.

“[Robotics] appeals to a lot of kids. They can take mathematical STEM concepts and actually build something, drive something. You see the results of what you learn in a book, “Tennessee Valley Robotics retiree Charley Spencer said.” I think parents and educators are seeing that robotics is a part of not only the future, but it’s a part of today. “

In all, Tennessee Valley Robotics and Volkswagen say they have invested funds and training in the amount of $ 340,000 in robotics and related equipment.

“It simply came to our notice then [the students] and glad that they have the opportunity to take part in the championship and just appreciate the partnership that we have with Tennessee Valley Robotics, “Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Justin Robertson said.

Contact Carmen Nesbitt at cnesbitt@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @carmen_nesbitt.

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