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Feb. 14, 2013

Engineering hosts VEX competition

Students compete for final spot in robotics challenge

By James Ryan

High school and middle school students across Northeast Ohio gathered on Feb. 1 in Woodling Gymnasium to take part in the Cleveland State University VEX Robotics Competition offered by the Fenn College of Engineering. The Cleveland State VEX event is a qualifying round for the VEX Robotics U.S. National Championship Tournament in Ralston, Neb. on March 7.

Creativity and the competitive spirit soared as schools from Norwalk, Medina, Shaker Heights and other schools battled it out in the “VEX Sack Attack” challenge in the hopes of making it to nationals.

In “VEX Sack Attack” robots were placed on a 12-by-12 field where the goal was to have the highest score before the clock ran out. Teams scored by scooping and dunking bean bags or “sacks” and golden-colored “bonus sacks” into their colored “floor goals,” “troughs” and “high goal.” They scored extra points by returning and parking their robot into their colored starting tile before match ended.

With rules at the ready and so much on the line, pressure built as students strove to move beyond the qualifying rounds.

“So far we won one round because our sweeping idea was pretty decent,” said Holden Sheeks, a Highland High School student. “The other [round], we just got blocked by some robot.” While laughing Sheeks then added, “I can’t swear, can I?”

In this competition students learn to manage their products, time and stress effectively in order to qualify for the final match. From unpredictable tactics to technical difficulties, students had to approach each battle prepared for anything.

“We had a few technical troubles, but for the most part it has gone really well,” said Johnny Knapp, a Grand River Academy student.

One middle school team from University Heights struggled to get their robot activated.
“Our robot seems to be kind of paralyzed,” said James Victoroff, 11, a Wiley Middle School Student. “Our wheels aren’t moving at all. Basically, our robot is in a wheel chair.”

No amount of technical difficulties could stop the laughter from being heard throughout the gymnasium as students made sure to have fun first.

“I think we’re doing pretty good,” said Kegan Linn, a Norwalk High School student. “We had some troubles, but we’ve been able to go through them so we’re doing better now. He then added that both he and his team were having fun, which is what they ultimately came to do.

Students voiced their gratitude and were elated to compete on Cleveland State’s campus.
“They did a great job setting it up and it’s fun,” said Rilee Horowitz, a Norwalk High School student.

As the competition approached its end, many were impressed by the ingenuity each student displayed and the hard work done by Cleveland State engineers to make this event possible.

“This was fully put together by student organizations in the College of Engineering,” said Nigamanth Sridhar, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cleveland State. “I’ve been doing this for five years now, and the fascinating thing about this competition is the amount of creativity that you see.”

Sridhar added that the students only have three to eight weeks to put their robot together.

In the end, the Shaker Robot Raiders, #5515G; Highland VEX Robotics C, #2603C; and Shaker Robot Raiders, #5515E won the competition and are now moving on to the U.S. National Championship in Ralston.