Claremore Daily Progress

January 15, 2013

A VEX-ing Day: CHS Robotics team hosts tourney

Mark Friedel
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — Claremore High School hosted a VEX Robotics competition Saturday at the community center. The tournament consisted of 49 teams including a school from Texas  as well as teams from Lawton, Apache, Edmond, Catoosa and Westville.

Claremore students along with CHS math teacher Denise Kimblern set up the event and provided scores and ranks for teams throughout the day. 
The final 18-team bracket tournament is made up of the top ranked teams who form an alliance with other teams of their choosing. 
“Every year is a new theme and a different competition,” said Kimblern.
This year the name of the game was entitled, “Sack Attack.”
Each team begins on their colored tile with all parts of the robot. The object is for one player of a three-person team to pour as many sandbags as possible.
“There is a 15 second autonomous period where the students program the robot to take over by itself. The driver then resumes control and has two minutes to score as many as they can,” said Kimblern.
She said there is an algorithm to the scoring. A 36-35 score is better than a 36-2 score.
“There’s a lot of strategy because you want to beat them but not by too much.”
Winners of the final match and overall competition Saturday included a team from Quinlan, Texas and two students from the Tahlequah Sequoyah Robotics team. 
At the end of the tournament, judge advisors brought from different aspects of education and industry, decided on an overall winner for the VEX Excellence award. 
The subjective award was based on bids from the tournament judges and included design, build, creativity of the robot, sportsmanship and overall teamwork. 
“In the VEX world, it is considered a higher ranking than the 1st place winner in a tournament competition,” said Kimblern. “The excellence award is an automatic qualifier for the world competition.”
Paul Bickford, one of the judges for the event, is a member of the VEX Advisory Board and has traveled to world competitions. Bickford works with other judges as he guides them through the tournament process.
“Students competing have the opportunity to earn a trip to world where the competing teams are very serious about robotics,” said Bickford. “The reason we have an advisory board is because we’re trying to build a platform for America to be competitive and that’s where this can lead to.
Bickford said the competition is made up of 416 teams from 16 different countries. 
“Last year, China had a fifth grade team that beat every high school and college team in programming skills, with the highest scoring robots and highest skilled driver. We as Americans need to wake up because that is who we’re competing against and it’s scary,” he said.
Oklahoma is allowed eight bids for the world tournament. Bids are based on overall population of the state.
Like other sports, VEX tournaments can help students and participators build life-long skills.
“Robotic competitions teach students professionalism and how to be a good sport,” said Judge Zach Cole. “I’ve never heard a negative comment from the crowd or another team. The enthusiasm is amazing.”
VEX advisory member and Tahlequah Sequoyah coach Jacob Tanner said he sees the comradery and teamwork that he looks for as a coach, without the drama.
“No daddy gets mad because their son or daughter isn’t driving the robot,” said Tanner. “Compared to athletic sports, the competition doesn’t change in the individual, just the stage he or she competes in.”