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What is VEX Robotics?

By Thereasa Rasmussen

VEX Robotics website States, “In the VEX Competitions, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, teams of students are tasked with designing and building a robot to play against other teams from around the world in a game-based engineering challenge. Classroom STEM concepts are put to the test on the playing field as students learn lifelong skills in teamwork, leadership, communications, and more. Tournaments are held year-round at the regional, state, and national levels; local champions go on to compete against the best in the world at VEX Worlds each April!”
 
Weiser High School has been running the Vex Robotics program for the last 5 years and has had  two teams attended  VEX World Tournaments. The first in 2014 held in Anaheim California and Louisville, Kentucky’s tournament in 2015. Students can sign up for the robotics class, but it has a limited number participants. The class is divided into five teams of usually three students per team. It is up to the students to decide who has what duties on their teams. Every year VEX sets a new challenge for the teams. The students learn of the challenge and then build their robots to meet the needs of the challenge. These robots are built from scratch by the teams and have no directions for the robots; each team has parts that consist of motors, gears, and hardware that they use to create their own unique robot.
Then these robots are tested on the school practice field that is 12×12 just like the competition field. Each team is responsible for creating and programming their robot to compete on this field. This year’s challenge is simple or so it would seem. The field is divided into equal halves and two alliances, designated by red or blue, compete for fifteen seconds in the  autonomous or programmed driving period followed by a one minute and forty-five second driver-controlled period. The goal is to attain a higher score than the opponents. Alliances gain points by placing yellow stars and orange cloth cubes into zones and hanging robots on the hanging bar. Essentially your alliance wants to clean its side of the field and place all the stars and cubes on the opponent’s side.  The following is how it is scored:
Each Star scored in the Near Zone = 1 point
Each Star scored in the Far Zone = 2 points
Each Cube scored in the Near Zone = 2 points
Each Cube scored in the Far Zone = 4 points
Low Hanging Robot = 4 points
High Hanging Robot = 12 points
            Alliance with the most points at the end of Autonomous period = 4 points
There are twenty-four Stars and four Cubes available in a match. Most begin on the field and others are available to be entered into the field during the match.
 
One of the things that make VEX Robotics different than other sports is that you don’t just compete with your teams from your school. Each side of the field has a two team alliance. Meaning two teams, usually from different schools, join as an alliance to compete against another alliance of two teams. Sometimes you can have an alliance with more than one team from Weiser on it, but for the most part the alliances are made up from different schools. This creates friendships and a sportsmanship spirit with other schools in a way that you just don’t see in other areas of competition.
 
There are five awards handed out at the end of a VEX Robotics Tournament. The first is to the Tournament Champions. This award goes to the alliance that outscored the competition. Each team on this alliance brings home a trophy to their school. The second award is the Design Award. This award is awarded specifically for design. Judges look at each robot for design, design process, team work, engineering notebooks, and interview skills. This award is only given to a single team. Then there is the Excellence Award and the Judges Award, they too are only given to a single team. The Excellence Award is an all around award given to the team with the best robot of the tournament.  It is judged on design, team work, interviewing skills, engineering notebook, and how the robot performs in the competition. The Judges Award goes to the team with the robot that has stood out from the rest, in whatever manner the judges see fit. The Design, Excellence, and Judges awards are determined by a set of independent judges that interview every team at the tournaments. The last award is the Robotic Skills award. This award is given to the team that received the highest score during a skills competition. The Skills portion of the tournament is a separate challenge. In this challenge a team’s robot has a sixty second period of time to earn as many points possible in a similar manner as the alliance challenge; the trick is that it is all in autonomous mode which is programmed driving only.  For any team receiving one of these awards, at any tournament, gives that team a place at the State VEX Robotics Tournament. After the Weiser Tournament it was determined that all five of Weiser High Schools teams will be competing in this year’s VEX State Competition Friday, February 24th in Hailey, Idaho. Great job Weiser Robotics and good luck in Hailey!

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