Mar 30, 2010

3... 2... 1... Start the robots

by Cat Hewett

Anyone who stumbled upon the scene in the Schilling Center Saturday, March 25, would have thought they had walked into a scene from the movie WALL-E.

Small, square robots scooted across the floor picking debris up as they went, but none of these robots left earth chasing their love EVE to eventually bring humans back to their sullied planet.

These robots were built by high school students and were competing in the first annual VEX robotics competition hosted by the Liberty University School of Engineering and Computational Sciences (SECS).

“The greatest part of this is just inspiring kids to get involved in areas of technology, engineering, math and science,” Associate Dean of SECS Dr. John Vadnal said. “We like to think that we can get some engineering students out of this.”

The winners received one $8,000 scholarship per team to whichever team member wants to attend Liberty University as an engineering or computer science major.

“(That) is a lot,” Neapolitan Ice member Mark Boener said. “I was planning on going to Virginia Commonwealth University, but I might change my mind.”

The over 20 teams that competed were split into two alliances, the blue and the red, and competed as teams. The Maverick, Iron Eagles and Neapolitan Ice teams from the Red Alliance took home the big prize for the day in a 2-1 victory over the Techtonics, Vex Techs and E.C. Glass High School teams from the Blue Alliance.

“This is actually our third robot this season, so to have one that finally works well and can get us to win a competition is probably one of the most gratifying things,” Neapolitan Ice team member Braden Wright said.

The game was simple — contestants needed to get more points than the other teams. They did this by picking up orange footballs and green soccer balls and getting them over the wall separating the teams.

“I believe that VEX has the right mix of excitement in the competition, the right mix of complexity in the classroom, and I think they blend together to create something that makes students want to go learn in order to build better robots,” VEX representative Brad Lauer said.

Students were in charge of designing and building their own robots.

“It starts as an evolution. You start with an idea and you scrap that idea and keep working over and over,” Iron Eagles team member Ian Hornick said. “The main idea we kept and we just tweaked it bit by bit.”

Qualification matches were held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and were followed by the elimination rounds. Several door prizes were given out, including two Dell laptop computers and two $100 Best Buy gift cards.

The winning teams from this event qualified to attend the World Championships in Dallas, Texas, April 22 - 24.

Contact Cat Hewett at

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