Marshfield robotics team blazes a trail to world championships
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – A robotics team formed just five years ago is blazing a trail all of the way to the VEX Robotics World Championships.
The School District of Marshfield Robotics Team is advised by Caleb Henderson, technology education teacher, and Shawn Trudeau, former technology education teacher and current technology integration specialist.
Some of the team members, who are now seniors, have been participating since the team’s first year, when they were eighth grade students.
This school year three teams competed at regional events, held in Wausau, Fond Du Lac, and Rice Lake.
“Team captains Aidan Vandre and Ellak Flannigan-Warren dedicate countless hours both inside and outside of school planning, designing, building, testing, watching match film, and documenting their design process. Their passion and hard work make the success of this season so special as it is a culmination of years of learning and work. Even though this is a competitive event that pits the Marshfield teams against one another they still work together to overcome challenges and have strong camaraderie,” Henderson and Trudeau said.
Team No. 27905B “Provolone” and No. 27905C “Muskrats” had winning seasons and were invited to compete in the Wisconsin State Tournament.
Team Provolone was crowned “Tournament Champion” at two of the three regional events they attended.
They also earned the “Excellence Award” at those two events, which is the highest honor in Vex Robotics. To earn this award, teams must not only have a highly competitive robot, but also great documentation of their design, teamwork, programming, and driving in the skills contest.
At the state championship, the team was a state finalist and won the “Amaze” award – both honors made them world contest qualifiers.
Team Muskrats spent a great deal of the time leading up the state contest designing and building a pneumatically-shifted transmission as part of their robot.
“This left little time for driving practice, making early qualifications matches at the state contest challenging. Their efforts on design were rewarded though winning the ‘Build’ award, and with it a world contest qualification spot,” Henderson and Trudeau added.
Both teams now move onto the VEX Robotics World Championships in Dallas, TX.
VEX Competitive Robotics is touted as the largest competitive robotics organization in the world with over 4,000 elementary, middle, and high school teams.
“The contest is based on a 12’x12’ field on which each year different game elements and scoring strategies are created to build a new contest. This year’s game is called ‘Tipping Point.” Teams construct robots starting when the game is revealed at the VEX World contest and continue building and refining their robot throughout the season,” the advisors explained.
“The competition starts with a 15-second period where their robots attempt to score points totally on their own based on programming. After this “autonomous” period, teams have one minute and 45 seconds to drive their robot as they work with their alliance partner to score as many points as possible.”
Collaborative efforts take an important role in world competition, as random “alliances” are developed between two teams to face opposing teams. The alliances score points during matches. For the final matches, teams are allowed to select their alliance partners, with the highest-performing teams getting first pick.
Judges also score teams during interviews and by observation for design, teamwork, problem solving, and documentation.
Team Provolone consists of senior, Aiden Vandre, team captain; and Jordan Beil, Simon Kloos, and Jacob Thompson, all seniors.
Team Muskrats is comprised of junior, Ellak Flannigan-Warren, team captain; Riley Degner , sophomore; Sonia Dissanayake, junior; Logan Seibel, senior; and Matt Kloehn, senior.
“As a coach I am amazed at the growth of our program from just starting out five years ago to now qualifying two teams for the world championship,” Trudeau stated.
“Beyond the success, I am more excited for the skills and experiences robotics competition has brought to our students. Seeing these students navigate difficult decisions and tackle tough problems in both design and competition really reinforces the importance of these experiences in building collaboration, communication, and problem solving skills that these students will need as they enter the world of work.
“We’re also proud of the individual growth in students. We’ve seen them grow in maturity, organization and camaraderie over these last five years, and we couldn’t be more proud of their efforts”
“I think for me, one of the most impressive things about this year was watching the innovative process our students have been going through as they revise their designs and robots in turn. It is truly amazing how they have picked up working with this platform (VEX) and made things function at such a high degree,” Henderson added.
“We don’t really teach many of the concepts they use on these robots. It is simply through online research, design and trial that these robots have transformed over this season. These are both very advanced designs that they have created. The largest advancement this year was the incorporation of a pneumatic system for lifting and securing goals. We have never attempted anything like this before. Another innovative design improvement created a two-speed transmission which is unbelievable and complicated to say the least.
“These are some truly remarkable students we have here in Marshfield. Their diligence, creativity and teamwork have truthfully proved to be the key to their successes this year.”
The VRC High School World Championship will take place in Dallas, TX, on May 5-7.