Neuqua Valley High School recently hosted the city’s first VEX robotics tournament that challenged 24 local teams to build the best robot.
Beginning with a basic $250 dollar kit, teams, like Neuqua Valley’s robotics club, then work together to build a robot that will win the game they’re assigned.
“A lot of what the students are learning here is a design process,” said Matt Ragusa, sponsor of the NVHS Robotics Club. “They look at the game and see that there are a lot of different ways to scone. They figure out how to make their robots unique.”
Each team’s robots were fully customized, from claw like arms to grab balls to propelled arms for shooting into the goal. This year’s game of Toss-Up, required them to move colored balls around the playing field while trying to score in hexagonal goals.
For Neuqua’s four teams and Naperville Central’s two squads their robots have been in the works since school began last September.
“We use our engineering notebook and we take notes design strategies and figure out what the strength of the robot should be,” said Sameet Sapra, NVHS Robotics Club Member. “Then we were able to get the best lift with that six bar and it goes up 24 inches to that hexagonal goal.”
Hosting a robotics competition comes with a price tag, that’s where the Indian Prairie Education Foundation comes in. They gave Neuqua Valley a grant to purchase the two fields of play you see behind me as well as funding this entire event.
“I wasn’t watching the robots, I was watching the students to see the various motions they were going through at times when things would work and when things didn’t work,” said Kent Duncan, Chairman of the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation. “I was watching that because that’s what we do, we do things for the kids.”
As part of the design process students are also learning programming, strategy, and teamwork. All skills that come together to help there though processes in their other classes as well.
“A lot of our students are very book smart, but when it comes to designing something to meet a specific task, they don’t know where to start,” said Ragusa. “So what they students get to do is learn what that process looks like.”
“You first start with a kit, but then you start buying so many parts and you’re constantly innovating,” said NVHS Robotics Club Member, Micha Wong. “That’s constantly innovating, that’s part of robotics. It’s a very rapid growth process.”
One Neuqua Valley team, Wiredcats 1 took home first place in both programming and design qualifying them for the state competition for the first time in three years, proving their hard work paid off.
“It meant a lot to do it on our home turf,” said Amanda Wenger, member of Wiredcats 1. “We went to a competition earlier and didn’t do as hot as we did here, so it was really nice to finally improve.”
Wiredcats 1 will now take on Illinois’ best during the state competition in March. Neuqua valley hopes to double the event in size next year to include 48 teams.
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