Three teams of budding engineers from Cabarrus County and University City qualified to compete at a national robotics competition in Kentucky after winning the state championship in Concord earlier this month.
Robots with whirring motors spun, lifted and built at the 2015 North Carolina State VRC Championships, hosted by Jay M. Robinson High School on March 7.
Dozens of other championship competitions are held around the world, from Oconomowoc, Wisc., to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the winners headed to the VEX Robotics World Championships in Louisville, Ky., April 15-18.
David Parisi, technology education and robotics instructor at Robinson, said he started the official VEX competitions in North Carolina in 2014 with two qualifying tournaments – one at Robinson and the other in Cary. Robinson hosted the state championships both years and advanced to the World Championship last year.
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Thirty-five middle and high school teams from across North Carolina competed in the 44 qualifying rounds in Concord this year. The top 24 teams then formed eight three-team alliances for the elimination rounds, culminating in the championship round. The teams that finished highest in the qualifying rounds picked the other two teams to be in its alliance.
The red team – an alliance of the 5139_A and 5139_B teams from the Robinson VEX Robotics Club and the Mallard Creek Mavericks – won the championship, earning the three teams the right to advance to compete at the World Championships.
A third Robinson team, 5139_C, competed on the blue team, an alliance with J.N. Fries Magnet School and the North Carolina School for the Deaf.
The 4242B Apex Middle School team won the Middle School Excellence Award, making it eligible to attend the World Championships as well.
Each round consisted of two engineering challenges in the form of games, with two robots from each team competing at any one time. In the games, robots had to perform tasks such as stacking hollow cubes made of plastic tubes on vertical posts or assembling poles made of interlocking pieces.
In the 15-second autonomous period, the robots lifted the cubes on to vertical pipes without human guidance. In the second period, lasting for one minute and 45 seconds, drivers controlled the robots as they placed the cubes on stationary posts.
One point-gaining strategy is to build a Skyrise section – a vertical pole on a base, made of interlocking sections. Teams have 1:45 to score as many points as possible.
During the final game, robot 5139_B of the red team and and robot 5139_C of the blue team were side-by-side in a corner, putting cubes on a stationary post, when 5139_C pushed 5139_B to the side and placed a blue cube on the post on top of a red cube. That move would earn a extra point if the blue cube stayed on top.
But robot 5139_B recovered, pulled the blue cube off of the post and replaced it with a red cube, claiming the extra point for the red team.
Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about Vex Robot Competitions, go to www.robotevents.com.