WH Croxford students compete at VEX provincial robotics

“The atmosphere at one of these events is pretty insane when you have 44 teams from all over the province and the region showcasing their work,” Acierto said.

After a year of developing their strategy and fine-tuning their robots, two robotics teams from WH Croxford High School gave it their all at the VEX Robotics Alberta 2021-22 Tipping Point Provincial Championship in Strathmore earlier this month.

Despite ranking in the middle of the pack of competitors and finishing in both 16th and 41st place out of 44 teams, both robotics teams gave it their all and had a great time, according to their head coach, Justin Acierto.

During the tournament, two teams are randomly paired into an alliance to achieve specific goals in a game against another randomly paired alliance. The game and its objectives change every year, but clubs usually have more than a year to prepare their robots for the next provincial competition, Acierto said.

“Given the amount of restrictions that we had, I told the students they have to give themselves some grace here because we started in September and most of the time we start in the previous year,” Acierto said.

The new game is announced every May, but due to COVID-19 and on-and-off-again learning-from-home measures, it was difficult for the club to get together to plan and build their robots this year.

As a result of the late start, Acierto said they ended up with a robot that was “a little bit simple” as it didn’t have the ability to do certain things necessary to have success in the game.

Luckily, when paired up with another team that had a robot with different abilities, they worked well together.

“One [of our] teams at one point during the competition had reached third place, ”Acierto said, adding he was shocked when he saw the ranking. “It was usually because they were helping other bots that were well built to do their job, so our team was essentially acting as a defense.”

This year’s game was called Tipping Point, Acierto explained, where the object was to attain a higher score than the opposing alliance through scoring rings, moving mobile goals to their own zone, and by elevating their robots on platforms at the end of a match.

“When paired up with another bot that could do another job, it was very much a complementary thing for them,” Acierto said, noting this year’s game involved a lot of strategy.

While one team from WH Croxford was paired well, the other didn’t do as positively due to not being matched with another team that could provide the same amount of support.

Other years included games where robots were tasked with shooting balls into a basket or flipping giant cubes onto one side of an arena.

Regardless of the tasks the teams have to accomplish, Acierto said the participants always enjoy the robotics competitions.

“The atmosphere at one of these events is pretty insane when you have 44 teams from all over the province and the region showcasing their work,” Acierto said.

While the teams research as much online as possible about robotics, the provincial competition provides a great opportunity for students to see what other teams came up with to compete.

Acierto said students in WH Croxford’s robotics club are very passionate and enjoy learning more about the specific areas required to build a robot.

The club includes students from grades 9 to 12. The Grade 9 students qualified for Skills Alberta, which promotes excellence in trades and technology careers through skills competitions and hands-on programs. They’re currently learning how to design and code, and how to build and wire a robot, Acierto explained.

“They’re taught by myself and the other coaches how to actually do those things and as they continue, our Grade 10s, 11s, and 12s are trying to put those skills together to create the bots,” Acierto said.

The robotics competition isn’t just judged on the final competition, but also takes into consideration their design skills. Students are judged based on their interviewing skills on robotic knowledge and their design notebooks and process.

“It’s cool to just see what they can accomplish and learn,” Acierto said.

Currently, both robotics teams at WH Croxford High School have five members each with different skill levels in specific areas of building robots, but Acierto said anyone from grades 9 to 12 is welcome to join.

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