Two local middle school duos qualify for robotics worlds

There’s no sibling rivalry on one of Immanuel Lutheran School’s robotics teams.

That’s because Lauren Bode, an eighth-grader at the Seymour school, and Daniel Bode, a sixth-grader, have to work together to be successful. They don’t have time to be competitive with each other. They have to be competitive with other alliances to get winning results.

That’s not to say, however, that there hasn’t been some arguing between the brother and sister.

“If it wasn’t for the arguing, it went well,” Lauren said, smiling.

Lauren said she is good at programming and building, and Daniel said he is strong with driving, so that has been a good combination this season.

Now, they are preparing for the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas, after earning that right from placing 10th in the Indiana VEX Robotics State Championship.

Another Jackson County middle school duo qualified, too. Seymour Middle School seventh-graders Micah Yee and Nikita Cox had a strong showing at state and rank in the top 2.135% in the world for skills and programming, their coach, Amy Jo Miller Kuzel, said.

Immanuel actually had four fifth grade duos qualify for the world competition, too, but they won’t be attending.

This is the first year for the Bodes to be paired together, but they have plenty of robotics experience. Lauren started in fourth grade and qualified for the world competition two other times but only went once. Daniel began in third grade and qualified for worlds last year but opted against participating since it was conducted virtually.

The first couple of tournaments this season, the Bodes said they didn’t have a very good robot, and they finished in the last half of the field.

They, however, rebuilt it over Christmas break and from there placed in the top five in their tournaments.

“We kept getting our robot better and were scoring a ton more points,” Lauren said.

“I feel like we just made it so it can reload faster,” Daniel said, as the idea of the game, Pitching In, is to spin balls in the robot, go up a path and shoot them or to push them into the center of the field.

“We can double shoot and score so many more points than pushing it in,” Lauren said.

At a tournament in Trafalgar, the Bodes won the Excellence Award. The highest award presented in the VEX IQ Challenge is presented to a team that exemplifies overall excellence in creating a high-quality VEX robotics program and is a strong contender in numerous award categories.

“We’re both hard workers. We work hard, and we practice a lot. We’ve done robotics for a while, and we know what’s going on,” Lauren said of what has made them a good team.

At state, the siblings knew they had to be consistent to be among the top 15 alliances going to the finals, and the top 12 would make it to the world competition.

They were seeded 14th and finished 10th.

“We didn’t have any malfunction. We ran a great match. We were like, ‘We’re going to worlds,’” Lauren said. “I was so excited. I have never made it to worlds based off of running well up at state.”

To be ready for the big stage in Dallas, Daniel said they are practicing two or three times a week, either at home or at school.

“We’re really just trying to improve our robot and make our robot even faster and more consistent,” he said.

“Once we get to worlds, we’re going to qualify with kids from around the world who are really good and just passionate and love robotics, so that will be so much fun to just meet new people who have similar interests,” Lauren said.

The Bodes also said they plan to practice with the SMS duo. They did that during the state competition.

Yee and Cox also are a new duo. Cox had done robotics in the past, but this is Yee’s first year after participating in a camp last summer.

Like the Bodes, they have opposite strengths that make them a good team.

“I’m a programmer. I love to program, and he’s a builder. He loves to build,” Yee said. “One of my favorite things in robotics and a lot of just extracurriculars is I love to problem solve. I love to see something that’s wrong and fix it. Whether it’s with a hardware problem, a software problem, that’s what I enjoy most about robotics.”

Cox said he can make complicated designs that many other people don’t think of.

All four of their regular-season tournaments were at Immanuel.

“Our first one, I feel like we did really bad,” Yee said. “We didn’t have this robot. We used a robot that was like a Hero Bot. We built that, and it worked OK. We were able to get some strengths out of it, but it just wasn’t consistent enough.”

They tried a Fling Bot until they realized that wasn’t going to cut it at state, so after researching different designs and aspects, they found one that was simple to program and versatile.

“It’s fairly consistent, and it can work with any other robot type because if we’re paired with a similar robot, we could just try to get every single ball in the field, and if we’re paired with one of the robots that puts them in the high goal really well, that works well, too,” Yee said. “It’s very versatile, it can do a lot of things and that’s part of why we were able to program our way into worlds.”

In their final three tournaments, Yee and Cox made it to the finals, giving them momentum going into state.

There, they performed well in the teamwork and skills portions.

“We cooperate with other teams during normal teamwork matches,” Cox said. “Even though we don’t get much high scores usually, we say, ‘Good job’ and ‘Have fun’ and ‘Try better the next match.’”

It wasn’t until a few days after the tournament that Cox and Yee learned they qualified for the world competition.

“We were in math class and I saw the email (from Kuzel), and I told Nikita, I was like, ‘Check your email. We made it to worlds.’ It was really crazy,” Yee said.

“Qualifying was a surprise,” Cox said.

Kuzel said the boys have put in a lot of work this season.

“They meticulously strategized the entire season, and to put in that much effort, it’s something to really be proud of,” she said. “They both have innovative ideas, and their skill sets really surpass a lot of students.”

Now, she gets to go to Dallas to see them compete with and against the best in the world.

“I think it’s going to be an awesome experience,” Kuzel said. “Their parents get to be involved with them in this, and it’s just something once in a lifetime. It can be more than once in a lifetime, but for this moment in time, it’s once in a lifetime. They are going to meet kids from other countries. These are their peers that they’ll be working with the rest of their life going into the same field.”