Robotic competition dazzles spectators

Blountstown High School students (left) compete in the opening match of the competition.
Photo Submitted by Jakeira Gilbert.

The School of Architecture & Engineering Technology hosted its Third Annual VEX Robotic Competition on Saturday, and local, regional middle, and high schools came together to show off their best engineering skills through innovative robots.

The region-wide competition was hosted in the Lawson Center, with FAMU Developmental Research School, Rickards High School, Timber Creek High School, and Blountstown High School among the schools in attendance.

Chao Li, a FAMU engineering technology associate professor and organizer of the competition, was nothing less than excited about hosting the international competition at FAMU once again. “VEX Robotics is the world’s largest educational competition, so a lot of countries are participating in this competition,” Li said. “We’re doing this regional competition, and the winners will advance to the state competition.”

Several obstacle courses were provided for teams to compete on, with many referees, spectators, and parents observing every moment. The courses are made of different color caps and flags that represent each team. Teams are given one minute to flip all of the objects to their color with their robot, and the team that flips the most color-matching objects wins.  With only five spots available to advance to the next round and more than 20 schools in attendance, judges had many sections to evaluate when selecting winners.

“The judges will look at the key robotics, from how they’re designing the robots, how the teams work together, how they’re documenting their designs in their notebook, and how they’re meeting the deadline,” Li said.

Teachers who served as team coaches were also there to cheer their students on. This competition was a very big moment for schools like Blountstown High School, which overcame working with limited resources to build their robots due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Michael.

“I’m looking forward to see how our robots perform, since they were built in a tiny closet due to Hurricane Michael,” Amanda McGhee, Academic Challenge Club coach and Blountstown High School teacher said.  “We (Blountstown High School) now share space with the elementary school, so our preparation has been significantly hampered but these guys are a great group of kids, and I just love that they’re able to put their engineering skills to use.”

Referee and Electronic Engineering Technology student Hervey Gilbert said he was amazed at the robots the teams competed with.

“I didn’t do any of this in high school. I’m very impressed that they have these robots moving, they have motors on them – some of them even have touchscreen interfaces as well. They’re using technological advancements that are currently in the industry today.”

All of the winners who advance from the state competition move to the world competition in April, held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.