photo by Paul Goyette

A group of 30 middle schoolers spent 4 weeks of their summer building “bots”–robots, that is — as part of OPEF’s Vex Robotics BASE Camp. They worked in teams of 4 under the direction of Julian teachers Tim Walsh and Jason Morrell, assisted by high school student mentors. The kids designed and constructed bots that could pick up plastic rings placed around a course and deposit them on goal posts
in a series of 2-minute competitions.

Team 4 built a robot that grabbed the rings, while Team 7’s bot scooped up the rings like a shovel. Team 4’s Emmet L. said they had lots of ideas that didn’t work out. His teammate, Ceazar D. noted, “That’s what happens when you build robots.” Brothers Christopher and Christian M., also of Team 4, explained that they kept starting over, trying new designs, “to be able to max out on the rings.”

Gabriel G. of Team 2 said he liked the building part of Vex. “I’m a very manual person, but I need to learn how to program,” so he and Ethan R. were working on the programming commands–trying to slow down their robot’s speed so it could navigate the course more accurately.

The camp ended with a competition on July 1. Seven teams competed in two separate alliances–red and blue. Their bots were built with shovels, grabbers, probes, and vacuums to pick up the rings. The game was very close, with the red teaming pulling ahead in the end, 146-131.

Both Julian and Brooks have Vex Robotics clubs during the school year, from October through February, open to all 6th-8th graders. This year teams that excel will have the opportunity to compete in other area competitions.

Mr. Walsh said he was “impressed by the level of sophistication that these new robotics engineers came up with.” He also described a “skills contest” they conducted on the final day of the camp. Each team was allowed two minutes on the course by themselves. “The top scorer was ‘The Clamp,’ which scored 8 rings and claimed 5 posts in two minutes! Bravo!”

More about the course and how the competition works can be found here.