Building and maneuvering robots may sound like science fiction, but it’s a daily activity for some Williamson County students.
And they’re pretty good at it.
Several local robotics teams participated in this year’s VEX Robotics World Championships in Dallas.
School-affiliated teams from Ravenwood High and Brentwood Academy left the event with big rewards. So is Regd, an after-school team — though he’s a first-time contender and one of the youngest groups to compete from Tennessee.
The Iron Eagles win big
Brentwood Academy sent its Iron Eagles to the world championships for nine seasons. This year, Brentwood sent eight teams to the event, the largest for a school in Tennessee.
Classmates Tate Cho and Patrick Melton are two of dozens of students who have spent time off at Brentwood Academy’s robotics program and competed against hundreds of teams in Dallas, all of whom were tasked with a game titled “Tipping Point”. In the competition, a robot had to quickly gather rings and drop them to tip a scale.
Two of Brentwood Academy’s teams have won major awards, including the “Inspire” award at the middle school level and the “Innovate” award at the high school level.
“It says we have a very good engineering book, we did well in our interviews, our construction is stable and we did well in competition,” said Cho, a rising junior. “It’s kind of like an overall award and we’re really happy about that.”
After graduating this spring from Brentwood Academy, Melton is preparing for her next assignment: the United States Naval Academy. He said his participation in the robotics program at Brentwood Academy inspired him to major in mechanical engineering.
But that’s not his only takeaway.
“There are always physical things,” he said. “There’s programming, driving, building, but you also learn some super important soft skills.”
“(Students) might not go on to do engineering later in life, but they will be able to use those skills.”
Cho hopes to pursue arts in college. But the two times World Championship participant and four-time qualifier has worked hard this year as the team’s project manager, handling every detail of a thick engineering notebook.
“You learn to get really practical, but I’ve also developed great relationships,” she said. “I mean, we spend 10 hours a week in the lab all together, so that’s been incredibly beneficial.”
IT director Chris Allen, who founded the program ten years ago, has seen it grow into a popular and competitive activity for students.
“It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done professionally,” Allen said. “Working with kids and seeing them from sixth grade through college and into the workforce…building those lifelong relationships and supporting their future is, I think, the biggest lesson for me.”
Regd: Young but powerful
In nearby Franklin, a five-person team called Regd met every week after school — sometimes working as much as a part-time job — to qualify for the Dallas competition where they eventually placed. eighth in their division among more than 70 teams.
Two eighth graders, two sixth graders and one fourth grader from various public schools in Williamson County, including Brentwood Middle, Woodland Middle and Clovercroft Elementary, came together last fall to create the team.
“It’s hard to find the words, but overall it’s just a lot of fun,” said Regd team member and eighth-grade student Vihaan Bussa, looking back on his first trip to the championships. world.
Most had been interested in robotics and had learned to code from an early age. They already knew several coding languages, but wanted to improve through competition and collaboration.
“It can be a stressful competition, but coming here every week and spending time with my friends while working on this robot and driving it, coding it, building it,” Bussa said. “You learn a lot about teamwork and cooperation.”
Adarsh Raveendran founded Robotix Institute, which hosts the group. While managing its seasonal lineup, Raveendran helped run Regd alongside the members’ parents.
He views the work dynamic of his journey to VEX as a creative process.
“What we’ve seen here is that if you give them the right tools and the right education and a place where they can start thinking about these kinds of things, they can actually come up with solutions without adults be involved,” Raveendran said.
“They are so smart.”
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