Over the years the VEX Robotics program has continued to grow, helping Oak Park middle school students gain valuable problem solving, communication, and engineering skills. Our program became a model for middle schools statewide because OPEF invested in cutting-edge technology and top-notch coaching, and we are committed to enhancing our program quality for the 2018-19 school year. The changes you will see this year include:

  • An additional (fourth) coach at each middle school and enhanced training for teen mentors–investments that will allow for more team support and troubleshooting.
  • An investment in brand new robots, with a smartphone-modeled technology designed to be more powerful, flexible, and approachable for novices. The V5 “competition” kits will feature new motors, controllers, smart sensors, touchscreen “brains,” and dashboard programming.
  • A longer season for the In-House League, the “intramural” option created for Oak Park middle school students who want a robotics experience that is less intensive and less time consuming. Both schools will offer a 12-week fall league, followed by a 12-week winter league. The slightly longer season means the students will have more time to build and program robots, and battle other school teams in a “robot rumble.”
  • A pilot program at four elementary schools that will introduce robotics problem solving and programming to fifth graders through a multi-week residency during library “specials.” The goal of this program is to expose more students to these skills and ultimately make middle school robotics more accessible and reflective of the D97 student population.
  • “SWAT” teams to run the independent Chicagoland Robotics League, which allow competitive student teams to participate in smaller, nimble monthly tournaments and accumulate points throughout the 20-week season.

OPEF is a privately funded organization that supports six in-school programs, but Robotics is by far our most expensive program in terms of staff, supplies, tournaments and technology. To ensure ongoing innovation in our Robotics program and financial sustainability for ALL our programs, we will introduce a new $295 user fee for students selected for the competitive club. The in-house leagues will remain free of charge at both schools.

We will work with families to ensure ALL eligible students are able to participate regardless of financial circumstances. We will offer discounts based on family income and the club fee can also be paid in installments. If you have any questions about the new changes coming to VEX, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the OPEF executive director, Tracy Dell’Angela Barber, or the Robotics coordinator, Michele Velarde-McAndrews.

For more information about the Robotics program, and to see calendars for each of the schools, please visit our Robotics page.