“You have five more minutes for chewing,” announced Mr. Tim Walsh. The snacks ended and the teams’
bins came out: it was time to hunker down and build robots. VEX Robotics at Julian had commenced and the
students were all business.
OPEF’s VEX Robotics program, now in its 6th year, gives students at both Julian and Brooks Middle Schools the
opportunity to design, build, and program their own robots in teams and then to compete to test their mettle.
Mr. Walsh, Julian science teacher, is the VEX Robotics team leader at Julian, along with colleague Jason Morrell.
Mr. Walsh reminded the students of their task: “We take plastic and metal and bring our ingenuity to them to
bring them to life.”
Christopher B. agreed. “I like the feeling of building robots. It’s like another person: it has a brain, arms, and
wheels for legs.” Conor J., his teammate, was working on a scoop mechanism for their robot. Also on this team
is Jacob I., a 7th grader who has returned for his second year of VEX. He came back because “it’s fun to figure out
how to put things together and communicate with each other on how we are going to do this.”
Tony C., a Julian 6th grader, said he joined the robotics club because he “likes building stuff.” He added, “My
Granddad and me build things together, and I wanted to do more activities at school, not just homework, to
keep me active.”
On this Wednesday afternoon, Tony and his teammates were excited since they finally had the motors working
on their robot and were now working on the arm and the wheels. His teammate Mardy H. said the most
challenging aspect for her so far has been how to get that arm to move–to extend and to move up and down.
When these students compete against their Brooks counterparts in February, their robots will, via remote
control, maneuver around a course, pick up plastic donuts, and place the donuts on posts scattered around the
course. So, getting that robotic arm to move smoothly and accurately is key.
Another teammate, Mitchell P., says he has been working on programming for the remote control, which he
said has been the most challenging task so far. Shirong L., also on this team, is new to Julian and to the United
States, and is excited to be able to participate in a club like VEX Robotics.
Volunteer Mike Farrar said his oldest daughter did VEX while at Julian. “I am amazed at what kids can engineer.
We give them a bunch of parts and they gotta start thinking.”
Sam H., a freshman at OPRF and a VEX veteran, comes back to help out with the club at Julian. “Helping people
do something I like motivates me to do what it was I was doing during the two years I was here,” he said. Mr.
Walsh emphasized to the current middle schoolers that these high school mentors know the “dos and don’ts” of
building these robots and that it’s important to listen to their advice.
Julian and Brooks will face off in the annual VEX Robotics competition on February 5, 2011 in the Julian gym.
The competition will consist of an autonomous round, in which the robots are preprogrammed to navigate the
course, and a remote-control round.
Click here to see Oak Park photographer David Kindler’s photos of the Julian team preparing for the competition