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February 13, 2014

Robots battle in VEX competition at Wolstein

Middle school and high school students gather from across Ohio


By Aaron Cutteridge

Grant Middle School from Marion, Ohio and Norwalk High School from Norwalk, Ohio sent talented students to the VEX Robotics Competition to the Cleveland State University Wolstein Center for regional competition on Feb. 8.

Teams from Shaker Heights, Sheffield, Brookside, Pickerington, Cleveland and Perry also attended the competition, but early in the qualifying rounds it became clear Grant and Norwalk were not to be trifled with.

Shortly after 10 a.m. the qualifying rounds began and robots danced around a square battlefield with automated and controlled tasks to perform. Many of the robots were of similar design and capabilities, but the two teams that quickly set themselves apart showed innovations in their robotics that the other teams did not have.

Round-after-round grinded by as some competitors programming failed and their robots did not perform during the automated stage of the competition or sometimes signals from the controllers were skewed and the robots did not operated as expected. Nuts and bolts began to fill the referee’s pockets after every match as the battlefield would reveal remnants of the robots slamming into each other during their frenetic movements to get the most rubber balls into the scoring quadrant as possible.

When the qualifying rounds were complete, the final teams in the elimination bracket were made up primarily of teams from the Norwalk high school and Grant Middle School. Each team selected other teams to partner with them during the elimination rounds as each round was made up of a best-of-three set of matches with the winning team advancing.

Norwalk’s team, made up of Jacob Martin, Bryon Rowan, Collin Rickert and Camden De La Cruz, was eliminated in the semi-finals. After a long day of competition and a heart-wrenching loss they shared about their experience.

“It was awesome, unfortunately, it happened just like the first competition, we went to the semi-finals, we lost, but we did a lot better this time,” said Rickert.

Rickert plans on becoming a firefighter after he graduates high school and robotics is “just a hobby." De La Cruz has been programming for over a year and wants to get into a software development program, but preferably on the west coast. Civil engineering at Purdue is where Martin wants to pursue a career and Rowan looks forward to robotics at Ohio State University and “wants to do the ‘I’ with his tuba," said Rickert.

Students from Marion’s Grant Middle School won the regional competition with innovation, determination and a 2-1 round in the final.

The first robot on the winning team was operated by Clayton Sloan, Daniel Rollins, Juan Contreras and Tyler Daso. “Glados," the name for their beloved robot, notched its first win for state competition.
“It was awesome teamwork," said Rollins on the rare shut-out win the robotic team was able to register in the semi-final round. Contreras explained, “The wheels give the robots more force," to move other robots because of the unique wheel set-up on all of Grant’s robots. The four young men controlling the first robot all shared that robotics is just a hobby for them, but only time and more competitions will tell if that changes.

The second robot was commanded by siblings Shelly and Elijah Lovsey, Cole Stallings, and Billy Davenport. Their robot, “Kookoo," registered its third tournament in a row with this win.

The unique wheel design (be sure to check the online photo gallery for pictures of the wheels) gave them a major advantage when they were stashing the balls in the tube because they moved more accurately said Davenport.

“It’s called ‘strafing’ and we picked the wheels specifically because they could do this," Shelly said.

“We looked at some of the best designs that were available and we looked at what made them as good as they were and we incorporated them into out robots," Stallings said.

“And we improved it," Shelly said.

The young men and lady operating the second robot all expressed the desire to continue working with robotics and look forward to the state finals in Marion. They hope for the chance to move on to Anaheim for the World Robotics Competition.