DC Robotics League
Robots engaged in high-flying action on Saturday as local teams competed in the second leg of the DC VEX IQ league at Brightwood Education Campus. VEX is a “click-n-play” block building system, similar to LEGO. With a vast array of motors, sensors and processors available, students can build their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills by building robots and competing with and against one another in organized tournaments. The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation has jump started play in the District this season by awarding grants to schools and community organizations. As a result of this generosity, there are three teams in the league with a connection to the Shepard Park and Takoma neighborhoods: Alice Deal Middle School, the NW Saturday Academy and the San Miguel School.
Three Ways to Play
There are three ways teams compete in the VEX IQ challenge (the 2017 game is called “Crossover”). First, two teams must collaborate in sixty second teamwork challenges and they work together to maximize their score. On Saturday, the teams that communicated well with one another performed the best, as the highest scoring activity (balancing on the bridge) demands precision driving control by both teams. Both the Deal and San Miguel teams excelled at this skill and it pushed them to the top of the table at the end of the day.
Secondly, each team had a chance to play a robot skills game where they had sixty second to score.
Lastly, teams have the option to play programming skills matches where the robots are programmed to act autonomously.
Although they are veterans FIRST LEGO League robotics, this was the first VEX tournament for the NW Saturday Academy team. They were excited to jump to the front of the leaderboard after the first two rounds of competition. It was very encouraging and inspiring to see them work together and with other teams to complete the challenges.
Today, the San Miguel team finished in first place, Deal came in third and the NW Saturday finished fifth out of fourteen teams. All three teams now move on to the State Championship which will take place in two week’s time. A trip to the VEX World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky is on the line. For the championship round, teams have an additional challenge. They will have to present the results of a STEM research project in order to earn a qualifying score. The teams look forward to improving their robot and earning that coveted championship banner.
The author, Christopher Alexander, is the founder of the NW Saturday Academy.