An alliance of three Oak Park middle school teams took first place in the Great
Lakes-Midwest-Illinois VEX Robotics Championship held February 11 in Batavia. A
total of 36 teams from Illinois and Wisconsin took part in the tournament – mostly high
Participants designed, built, and programmed robots during club meetings to compete in a
fast-paced game that involved picking up plastic balls and cylinders and depositing them in
scoring goals of various heights. District 97’s VEX Robotics program is run by the Oak Park
After a lengthy series of qualifying matches at the tournament, eight Oak Park teams qualified
for the finals, six teams from Julian and two from Brooks. Each of the top-ranked eight
teams earned the right to select two alliance partners for the elimination bracket. Seventh
ranked “Team Yellow” from Julian ended up selecting the “Julian TeamWhite” and “The Loose
Bolts Team” from Brooks as their partners. This alliance beat the top ranked high school
teams in the quarter and semifinals and went on to win by sweeping the finals best-of-three, 2
matches to 0.
“It is not every day that a group of middle school students outperform high school
students. This is a tribute to the dedication and months of hard work by these students”, said
Julian faculty advisor Tim Walsh. Julian mentors Sergio Firpo and Bob Parks credit the team
success with the durability resulting from simple, solid designs, and really honing their driving
skills. Parks added, “Simon Lee was a combination of Joe Montana and Mario Andretti,
hands-down best driver at the event, and his teammates worked with him in perfect concert.”
Brooks mentors credit the success of “The Loose Bolts” to their self-reliance, teamwork, and
years of experience in the club.
As regional champions, this three-team alliance qualifies for the VEX Robotics National and
World Championships that will take place later this spring.
Julian Team White members are Mardi Hillengas, Mimi Labruyere, Simon Lee and Jonah
Meshenberg. Julian Team Yellow members are Diego Firpo, Ethan Mertz, Matthew Mitrovich,
and Matthew Testore. Brooks “The Loose Bolts” members are Daniel Jenks, Abe Sell,
Matthew Wallace, and Chris Webb. A total of 44 Oak Park students participated in the
Make sure to check out our slideshow of photos from our January 28 Julian-
Brooks VEX Competition and Open House from photographers Maria Soderberg and Paul Goyette. And watch this video of our VEX Robotics teams getting ready for the big competition.