Sixteen middle and high schools teams, challenged their minds and robots during the VEX Robotics Competition, held inside of Jake Gaither Gymnasium at Florida A&M University- Saturday.
FAMU’s School of Architecture and Engineering hosted an inaugural robotics competition to introduce minority students to robotics, mold critical thinking skills and promote the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Teams participating were required to build their own robots and maneuver them on a 12’ x 12’ playing field all within a 15 second autonomous period, followed by a one minute and forty-five second driving period.
Anita Acre, a Vex Robotics volunteer mom, has been volunteering ever since her son started with the program in high school, and continues as he donates his time while being in college. As a parent, she encouraged her son to build his own toy car models.
“You take more pride in things that you’ve put your hands on and have actually learned to build,” said Acre.
Jabari Acre, Acre’s son as well as a current FAMU freshman majoring in Mechanical Engineering, began building complex toy car models in the fifth grade. He believes, like his mother, that it is significant for everyone to give robotics a try.
“This engineering thing is just like another sport to possibly provide a different way to look at the activity robotics or the field of engineering,” said Jabari.
Out of several teams from different schools throughout the state of Florida, the Marianna High School TSA team took home the victory of tournament champions. Team members said they had been preparing all year by doing constant mock-ups. There was a four-month process to prepare and build their new winning robot model. When asked to list the skills attained from their experience, the team emphasized patience, problem solving, teamwork, practical skills and gaining insight into the realm of technology.
Palm Bay Preparatory Academy, Rickards High School, the DRS Titans, a high school division team named, ‘Hunterz’ and Griffin Middle School were others that received a variety of awards.
As the event ended, Rodner Wright, interim provost of FAMU, congratulated the participants on their accomplishments. Wright continued, stating, “know you are all winners because you were willing to try something different.”
Marianna High School’s winning team will compete next in the state competition on Feb. 17 at the Florida State Fairgrounds. If they are approved to proceed, they will compete at the Technology Student Association’s State Conference in March, in Orlando.