BA-robotics

By Landon Woodroof

Three Brentwood Academy robotics teams are headed to the 2017 VEX Worlds championship after coming out on top in this past Saturday’s state competition.

The state competition was divided up into a number of different categories. Winners of certain categories are guaranteed a berth in the world championship. Two of the teams are from the high school and one is from the middle school.

Two BA high school teams, 9364 and 9364C, won the tournament portion of the event. The tournament each year is comprised of a game that teams of robots must play against one another.

This year’s game is Starstruck, wherein two robots from two separate but allied teams face each other on either side of a fence. The goal is to move as many Stars and Cubes from your side of the fence to your opponent’s. Katie Ann Edgeworth and Will McClellan, who were featured in last week’s Home Page article about BA’s robotics program, are members of 9364C.

BA also came out on top in a separate field by winning the Design Award. The middle school team, 9364B won that award, the second highest bestowed in competition.

The Design Award is one “that’s given to the team that demonstrates the most accurate representation of the design process in the engineering notebook,” BA Robotics coach Chris Allen said. Each team is required to keep detailed notes of their robot designs over the course of a year. Winners of the Design Award demonstrate that they have fully understood and implemented their designs in their finished robots.

“If all the team members can speak intelligently about why they did what they did, and everything lines up, they’re gonna get a pretty good score,” Allen said.

Another facet of the competition is the Robot Skills contest. In Robot Skills, teams are tested on such criteria as how well they can drive their robots and how effective their programming is. BA’s flagship team, 9364, won this portion of the day handily.

Normally, the winner of the Robot Skills category gains a spot at Worlds. Since 9364 also won the tournament, they double-qualified. When this happens, the rules stipulate that the team with the next highest score that has not already qualified for Worlds in another category gets to go. On Saturday, that was BA’s middle school team, 9364D.

As BA soon found out, though, there was a wrinkle to this process. The school was informed later this week that 9364D was actually not eligible to go because Tennessee is only allowed to send two middle school teams to Worlds. Since two other middle school teams actually won their categories outright, they were assured those spots. The Robot Skills berth then went to a high school team from Franklin Road Academy.

There are no hard feelings on BA’s side from this turn of events.

“Congratulations to FRA,” Allen said. “It’s the first time they’ve gone to Worlds. It’s a huge accomplishment for any team to make it to Worlds.”

Allen said the world championship, which will be held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville from April 19-22, is always a great experience, and should be extra-exciting this go-round.

“It’s a blast,” he said. “It’s so intense, especially this year.”

The reason for that is the nature of the Starstruck game that everyone will be playing. Whereas some previous competition games have involved activities like stacking or building structures, this year’s is more of a fast-paced event.

“Cubes and Stars are just flying as fast as you can pick them up,” Allen said. “It’s high action.”

Overall, Allen is immensely proud of the BA students who rose to the top at the state championships. He sees their success as a tremendous boon both for the school and for its robotics program.

“I’m ecstatic that we have three teams going to the world championships,” he said. “It’s a huge honor for our school, and I feel like it really helps to advance our program here and also encourages more students to join robotics.”