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Hamden Hall Country Day School
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VEX Robotics Competition Drives STEM-Minded Students

What’s more exciting than watching a competition involving robots? A competition involving student-designed robots that battled through multiple rounds until the end. That was the case for the Middle and Upper School Robotics Team as they put their mechanical and engineering skills to the test in two recent VEX Robotics competitions.

Under the advisement of faculty members Emily Davies and Jared Katz, the Lower and Middle School Robotics Team comprised of students in Grades 6-8 competed at the Boys & Girls Club of Meriden's Vex IQ Challenge Qualifier on Saturday, February 17. The competition was part of the VEX Robotics Program, which gives students the opportunity to build a robot to solve an engineering challenge that is presented each year in the form of a game. This year’s challenge game was called Full Volume where teams had one minute to clear, sort, and move different-sized block pieces into the corner score zones on a 6’ x 8’ rectangular field. The MS Green Team tied for fourth place.

“With a set number of blocks on the field, the robot has to be able to pick up blocks and get them into the corner zones,” said Mr. Katz. “The team scores points for every block they get in the corners, and they can score extra points if the robots park in the supply zone.”

Joined by their coach/faculty advisor Robert Link, the Upper School Robotics Team competed at the VEX VRC Competition at the University of New Haven on Saturday, February 10. This year’s challenge was a game called Over Under where teams competed in alliances to move triballs past the barrier into the netted goals in the Offensive Zone on the 12’ x 12’ square field. Each match consisted of a 15-second autonomous period, during which the robot moved itself on the field and a driver controlled period with the students using the remote to operate the robot. Teams also received extra points if the robot lifted itself onto the elevation bar. 

“I have been so impressed with what these students have been able to accomplish in a short few months,” said Mr. Link “The students are learning on many levels with problem-solving through different situations and challenges and how to resolve them as a team.”

Prior to both sets of competitions, students spent about three months building the robots from scratch using robotics pieces from the VEX IQ company.  The Middle School robotic design used plastic pieces while the Upper School robotics design included metal pieces. As the students finalized the design, they wrote the code feature that operated the robot to move during the competition. In addition to the game competition, teams were also evaluated on criteria such as team interview, programming, robot design, and engineering notebook.

With their first robotics competition season in the books, both Mr. Katz and Mr. Link said they are looking forward to what next season will bring. They both agreed that starting preparations earlier in the year will benefit the students overall. Mr. Link noted that it’s been a great learning experience and said the students continue to impress him with their knowledge of mechanics and engineering. 

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