Robotics competition held at Tech

Kaitlyn Baldwin, a junior from Bryant High school, and her team mate prepare their robot for the last battle for the title of state champion
Kaitlyn Baldwin, a junior from Bryant High school, and her team mate prepare their robot for the last battle for the title of state champion
Kaitlyn Baldwin, a junior from Bryant High school, and her team mate prepare their robot for the last battle for the title of state champion

Kaitlyn Baldwin walks with determination to the side of the ring held within Tucker Coliseum, only kneeling so she can align her robot to the goal. Kaitlyn, captain of her team and a junior from Bryant High School, won state for robotics last year and she’s determined to have her team win it again.

Arkansas Tech University hosted the Vex Robotics state competition for high school and middle school students on Saturday, March 6. The top four teams from this event will go on to compete at the World Robotics Competition in April.

‘“I feel like we have to keep the tradition of going to Worlds because we haven’t had a year where we haven’t,” said Kaitlyn.

During this competition, teams of students were tasked with designing and building a robot to compete against other teams from around the state in a game-based engineering challenge. The team’s robots could be of any design that would meet the requirements and challenges of this year’s competition and many advisers for the teams took this into consideration before choosing their team.

“Before they joined the team they had to do a sketch of what they want,” said Katina White, project lead the way teacher from Sylvan Hills. “They have to do their own research on the competition itself and the challenge for this year.”

This year’s challenge was the lift – one robot could lift another in the last 30 seconds for bonus points. The teams spent several hundreds of hours building each robot to fit the design they chose. Some used mechanical systems, some used gas systems and some used the special lifting move to get the highest points.

“A lot of time the first design never works, or the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, [until] they finally get a design we take to regionals,” White said.

Forty-nine teams competed at regionals in the bracket style elimination. Each team was given a chance for points during four preliminary rounds where they were randomly teamed up. The top eight schools with the most points at the end of the preliminary rounds were then guaranteed a position to compete in the final elimination round.

Each round, including the final, was held inside a square ring approximately 12 foot by 12 foot and with walls 11.5 inches high. In two of the four corners robots were contained to their 2 foot by 2 foot area for the first 15 seconds. In opposing corners stood two goals each matching their teams color, one red and one blue.

For the first 15 seconds the robots had to run a computer-based program, no human control at this point, and the robots tried to make stiff 4-inch foam balls into a high goal or a low goal. The next minute and half then allowed the students to control the robots via a game controller remote. The same idea of getting the balls into the goals continued into this section of the round.

The points were given based on the color of the balls and if the ball was in the high or low goal. If the ball was orange it received bonus points, if it was yellow it was a standard point. If the balls were in the high goal they received additional bonus points.

“We wanted to be No.1 and just be the best, so we just dove on it and free styled it,” said Johnny Guzman, senior at Vilonia High school, about getting his team’s robot “Big Meaty” to regionals.

Once each round was counted and the participating teams awarded points they were then ranked by wins, loses and points. The top eight teams were then given a position on the final bracket and given a chance to team up with another school of their choice.

The teams then faced off in a double elimination until the team #5691X – BHE Skunkworks Division, Kaitlyn’s team, won state and headed once again to the world competition.

“This is a STEM program and we want to encourage kids to get into that,” said Randy Gullett, engineering tech education teacher at Mabeville Middle School, “because the United States is lacking engineers and engineers make a pretty good salary.”

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