Building robots for team competition takes time for trial and error. So Abraham Yang, a seventh grader at Baldwin Arts & Academics Magnet School, was glad he didn’t have to juggle schedules with the other students on his team.
The three are siblings, and they all live under the same roof.
“When you’re home, you always get to practice,” Abraham said about competing with his siblings in a robotics competition. “You don’t need to schedule a time. But then, of course, we’re siblings, so sometimes we bicker a little bit, but usually it settles out in the end. ”
Abraham created Team Penguin Robotics last fall with his sister, Johanna Yang, a fourth grader at Forest Avenue Academic Magnet School, and their brother, Elijah Yang, a second grader at Forest Avenue. It was their first season as a team.
And all of their impromptu practices seem to have paid off: Team Penguin won the 2022 VEX IQ Robotics Alabama State Championship at Auburn University’s Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 19.
The trio won the state championship’s top three awards: Robot Skills Champion Award, Teamwork Challenge Champion Award and the Excellence Award. The Excellence Award is the highest award in the VEX Robotics program.
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Team Penguin is not affiliated with any one school. The tournament rules allow for neighborhood or community teams, as long as other requirements, like age, are met.
Abraham first joined a robotics team when he was at Bear Exploration Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology School. Johanna was not chosen for her school’s team, but she was happy about becoming a team with her brothers.
“I felt like God had put us in a team together for a purpose,” she said.
Elijah is not in the grade for robotics, but he is old enough to be on a team with his siblings, he said.
For the championship, the team built a completely new robot. They had three designs, but they were able to construct the most efficient one, Abraham said.
One of the most challenging parts of building the robot was the “intake roller,” Johanna and Abraham agreed. That’s the mechanism involved in the catapult.
“That was very challenging,” Abraham said.
“And, we changed for ball catching, we changed the catapult modules,” Elijah said. “So, there would be wider catapult modules [that] like have a better space for the balls to go in. ”
The state championship was also the day of Johanna’s birthday, and when the team won, the room sang happy birthday to her.
Johanna explained that when she and her siblings went up on state to get their awards, the announcer noticed she was wearing a birthday pin. That’s all it took.
“Everybody in the bleachers sang, ‘Happy Birthday,’ to me,” said Johanna. “And really, it was really meaningful to me.”
The siblings now have two-and-a-half months – more time than they usually have to prepare, Abraham said – until the World competition. Elijah explained that they have already spent two hours trying to get a new mechanism for the catapult.
In the more distant future, Abraham said he wants to become an engineer.
“I’m not sure what kind yet,” he said. “I wanted to be an aerospace engineer and an astronaut when I was little, but right now I’m not that sure.”
Jemma Stephenson is the children and education reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser. She can be reached at email@example.com or 334-261-1569.