New-Fashioned Problem Solving

New-Fashioned Problem Solving
Posted on 01/08/2018
Image of VEX Robotics Competition

(Published 1/7/18 Beacon Journal, writer Amanda Garrett)

Team Largos’ robot — a wheeled, remote-controlled device capable of hoisting, carrying and stacking — blew a drivetrain Saturday afternoon during the first round of competition.

Yet the Litchfield middle school robotics team was undeterred. At a table at the back of Firestone high school’s gym, members quickly figured out their robot’s engine had overheated. Robotics mentors from Firestone high school gave them a solution.

“It’s like instant frostbite. It cools the engine right away,” said Eli Nisly, 14, as teammate Trenton McLean, 13, worked to get the robot back up and running.

Saturday’s Vex Robotics Competition wasn’t like most gym sports.

Teams like Largos — which was in its first-ever robot showdown — aren’t judge solely on the final score at the end of a match in which robots score points by moving and stacking cones in designated areas of a 12-by-12-foot ring.

They’re also judged on all the planning, teamwork, design and redesign that went into their robots before they ever square off.

Professional engineers interview students about who did what and why. They ask them how they picked the people on their robotics team and what works well — and what doesn’t, along with what could be improved.

They also review each team’s engineer book — a detailed collection of drawings, photos, data, ideas and plans that show the complete evolution of their robot.

Vex is the largest student-led competition in the world, drawing teams from 50 countries. They compete in regional Vex competitions like the one at Firestone on Saturday before winners head off to compete nationally and for world honors. Read more and watch the video at >>.

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