Local students compete in VEX robotics state qualifier


Keigan Miskell and Brenden Holiday each had 30 seconds to maneuver a robot around a 4-by-8-foot rectangular playing field.

The object was to score as many points as possible by using the robot to pick up small orange balls and place them in or on different colored cubes. They also could move the cubes to different areas of the field to earn even more points.

Although their score wasn’t as high as they would have liked, the two Emerson Elementary School students weren’t disappointed in their performance.

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“You just never know what to expect,” Miskell, 11, said. “Sometimes, everything will go right, and then the next time, the robot might not work.”

But not knowing what’s going to happen is what makes it exciting, he said.

And you don’t have to win to have a good time, he added.

“I just like experimenting and getting to build the robots,” Miskell said.

He also likes getting to work with his classmates as a team.

“That makes it fun,” he said. “You want them to do good, and they want you to do good, and you help each other out.”

Staged at Immanuel Lutheran School in Seymour on Saturday, the daylong VEX IQ Challenge Squared Away competition drew around 100 two-person teams from all over the state, filling both of the school’s gymnasiums. One area was for elementary-aged students, and the other for middle school students. This was the third competition of the year.

Around half of the teams were from Jackson County.

Local schools competing were Immanuel, Seymour-Jackson Elementary, Emerson, Margaret R. Brown Elementary, Lutheran Central, Seymour-Redding Elementary, Cortland Elementary, Seymour Middle School, Crothersville Junior-Senior High School and Brownstown Central Middle School. The Seymour Boys and Girls Club also fielded a team.

All three of the competitions have served as a qualifier for the Indiana VEX Robotics State Championship, which is March 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Students have spent months building, programming and learning how to operate their robots and practicing the Squared Away game during robotics club meetings before or after school.

Jennifer Regruth, robotics coach at Brown Elementary, said the competition was a time for students to learn and shine.

“The day was amazing,” she said. “Our kids showed up very excited, ready to compete with the robots they had built. But as the day went on, they began noticing the builds of other teams and started discussing what modifications they could use on their own robots.”

Students were even learning while waiting their turn to compete, she said.

“Since you compete with eight other teams throughout the day, each has a different strategy,” she said. “So as you wait in the cue line, teams work together to lay out a plan to make the most of their one minute of competing.”

The experience was valuable in so many ways, she said.

“We met so many fantastic people,” she said. “We learned from other coaches, were able to lend a radio chip to another team and the kids made lots of friends.”

This was the first year for Immanuel third-graders Zander Hopkins and Aaron Abner to compete on the school’s robotics team. They placed 29th out of 49 elementary teams.

Hopkins said being in a multi-team competition is much different than just practicing at school.

“The tournament is very fun, fast and loud,” he said.

With three playing fields, a skills test area and practice fields in both gyms, there was always something going on. Parents and family members filled the bleachers watching and cheering on the competitors.

Although he likes operating or driving the robot and competing, Hopkins said he’s more interested in learning how the robots work and what he can do to make them work better.

“I like to build the robot and program it,” he said.

Conner Schafer, 10, and his teammate, Gavin Murphy, 10, represented Redding Elementary. It’s their second year in robotics.

Schafer enjoys building robots but said it can be difficult getting used to the courses as they change each year.

“It can be a challenge just to get everything done,” he said.

Competing in robotics is more than just technical work, though, Murphy said.

“You have to learn not to argue with each other and work together,” he said. “That’s not always easy.”

Both boys said they were excited to see how they placed at the end of the day.

“It’s a chance to make it to state,” Schafer said.

Kinsey Reed, 10, and Jazzlyn Cravens, 10, of Jackson Elementary said competing in robotics can be a little overwhelming, but they’re glad they are giving it a try.

“It’s confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it gets easier,” Cravens said.

Reed said she was curious about robotics and decided to find out more about it by getting involved with Jackson’s robotics club.

“I was asked to join, and it sounded like fun,” Reed said.

Immanuel students Zoe Croquart, 10, and Chloe Rudzinski, 11, have competed in all three tournaments this year.

“I went to a robotics camp and got to build robots in the summer, and I just really liked doing it,” Croquart said. “I like that you get to work together.”

Rudzinski said being in robotics is not only a good learning experience but gives her the opportunity to meet different people.

“You make a lot of friends doing it,” she said.

Even if they don’t win a match, they can still improve their scores.

“You just try to make adjustments and do better each time,” Croquart said.

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VEX IQ robotics tournament at Immanuel Lutheran School on Jan. 11

Elementary school

49 teams competed

Jackson County schools

9 from Immanuel Lutheran School

1 from the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour

4 from Seymour-Jackson Elementary School

2 from Emerson Elementary School

5 from Margaret R. Brown Elementary School

4 from Lutheran Central School

4 from Seymour-Redding Elementary School

6 from Cortland Elementary School

Awards for Jackson County teams

Robot skills champion: Daniel Bode and Sam Parisi from Immanuel Lutheran School

Design award: Chloe Rudzinski and Zoe Croquart from Immanuel Lutheran School

Judges award: Oliver Lanam, Clayton Reedy, Paul Cole and Arlo Ollmann from Cortland Elementary School

Middle school

47 teams competed

Jackson County teams

4 from Immanuel Lutheran School

8 from Seymour Middle School

2 from Crothersville Junior-Senior High School

5 from Brownstown Central Middle School

1 from Lutheran Central School

Awards for Jackson County teams

Teamwork champion: Colton Whittymore, Conner Wynn and Luke Imlay of Brownstown Central Middle School

Design award: Lauren Bode and Kade Gillaspy of Immanuel Lutheran School


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