Our 2014-15 competition season came to an end with much excitement in March, when OPEF VEX Robotics teams won five trophies at the 2015 Illinois State Championship. Thanks to a great group of students and the support of many local businesses and individuals, we had another amazing year. Our accomplishments this year included:

  • Presenting at the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show – Julian’s Gold Rush team was chosen by Project Lead the Way to present their holonomic robot at the Smartforce Student Summit at the 2014 IMTS in September.
  • Increasing the size of our program – Our program now serves 48% more students than it did just two years ago.
  • Increasing the number of girls for the 3rd year in a row – Girlsnow make up 29% of our students served, up from 18% last year.
  • Growing middle school VEX Robotics teams in Illinois – At the start of the 2012-13 season, we were the only middle school VEX Robotics program in Illinois. Today there are 46 registered middle school teams at nine schools in Illinois. We have supported most of these teams through networking, training, and advice.
  • Increasing the competition opportunities for students – We reached our stretch goal with the Informitics Challenge Fundraiser, allowing us to purchase additional arenas as well as additional equipment for the clubs.

We are now taking advantage of our post season to do a number of additional projects that help us enhance STEM education for District 97 kids, including:

  • At Brooks Middle School, VEX Robotics club members, Danny Lingen, Takuma Kawamura, Ben Moyer, Aiden Domenz, Jake Matyas, Sam Shafiro and Cyrus Murray worked to bring their technical skills to BRAVO’s production of Mary Poppins. When a table gets “broken” during the scene, Mary Poppins works her magic and the table fixes itself using, not magic, but the mechanical system created by the boys. Mary Poppins will be showing at Brooks April 24-26 and May 1-3.
  • Also at Brooks, Chris Pros will be leading a free twice weekly after-school tech workshop starting April 21 to teach advanced techniques in Autodesk Inventor. Registration opens Thursday, April 16. For information, contact Beth Barton
  • At Julian Middle School, Tim Walsh is offering a free after-school workshop twice a week that allows students to work on their own project using the VEX Robotics equipment.
  • May 12 & 13, OPEF is hosting our 3rd annual Robotics Workshop for Girls in grades 5th – 8th grades. Registration will open the week of April 20. Look for information on how to register atopef.org/vexrobotics and on school websites.

We will also be hosting a site visit by a STEM education foundation from Korea in April, and meeting with local VEX Robotics teams to create additional Illinois middle school tournaments for next season.

Look for more announcements in the coming months as we prepare for the 2015-2016 season and the celebration of our 10th anniversary!