Local middle school robotics team to compete in national tournament

Published 12:21 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

GRANDVILLE — A local robotics team has punched its ticket to a VEX Robotics national competition. 

Robo Tech Zone students from Team Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang – VEX Robotics team No. 4911E – won the Judges Award at the VEX Robotics Competition for State Championships in Grandville this past weekend.

The RoboTZ VEX Robotics Competition team is Emily Carr, 14; David Gearhart, 13; Cashton Kimmey, 12; Tallula Kimmey, 12; Lukas Taggart, 12. To prepare for the tournament, the group worked together to design, build and program a robot using VEX V5 that could quickly and efficiently solve specific engineering challenges that come with playing the 2023-2024 VEX Robotics Competition game Over Under.

Students competed with and against the top 48 middle school teams from Michigan. The event required middle school students to execute the 2023-2024 VEX Robotics Competition game “Over Under” presented by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation.

As the winner of both the Judges Award last weekend and the Grandville Holiday Tournament in December, the team not only qualified for the state championship but also the Create U.S. Open Robotics Championship March 11-13 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Regular season tournament winners from across the United States and Canada are qualifiers for this event.  Teams from the rest of the World are invited on a country-by-country basis.

The team is gearing up and fundraising for its upcoming trip to the U.S. Open. Many local businesses have been integral in sponsoring this rewarding robotics program.

Each week, the students apply what they’ve learned about STEM in the lab, to build these semi-autonomous machines. An equally important set of skills is learned through the competition – communication, project management, time management, and teamwork.

“Not only have these students  developed the technical skills to design a winning robot, I am most proud of their ability to work together as a team and grow their soft skills in communication, game strategy, and problem solving,” said RoboTZ coach Chris Kimmey. “The RoboTZ program is making a positive impact on these future leaders.”

RoboTZ VEX Robotics Competition teams meet in their lab after school at Southwestern Michigan College’s Niles Campus. RoboTZ students come from over 10 different school districts in southwest michigan. They gather to learn about electronics, programming, mechanical systems, 3D CAD design, and materials fabrication.

Carr, the team captain, said she was proud of her team’s perseverance and accomplishments throughout the season. Many of the team members have future ambitions to go on to college and major in robotics, computer programming, or an engineering-related field, utilizing the skills they acquired on their robotics team. 

The Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation manages the VEX Robotics Competition, which thousands of schools participate in around the world each year. 

“As an experienced robotics mentor, I’ve seen firsthand the engineering skill and leadership expertise that students gain by participating in the VEX Robotics Competition,” said Dan Mantz, CEO of the REC Foundation. “It’s an experience that will stay with them long after their school days are over, offering a new appreciation for STEM and laying a strong foundation of critical problem-solving, communication, and teamwork skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.”

The Create U.S. Open is one of the top VEX Robotics Competitions taking place internationally throughout the year. VEX Competitions are recognized as the largest and fastest-growing competitive robotics programs for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and college-aged students around the world. There are more than 23,000 VEX teams from 58 countries that participate in over 2,300 events worldwide. The competition season culminates each spring with the VEX Robotics World Championship, a highly anticipated event that unites top qualifying teams from local, state, regional, and international VEX Robotics Competitions to crown World Champions. More information about the VEX Robotics Competition is available at roboticseducation.org.