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Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District - VEX Robotics Team Competes in its First Regional Competition

By David Doty, Physics Teacher, ddoty@clvschools.org

Earlier this year, nine students from Mr. Doty’s VEX robotics class went to Cuba Rushford High School to compete in the regional qualifying tournament for the VEX Robotics game, “Turning Point.” There were 15 teams from the region and Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District (CLV) fielded two teams, one with four students, the other with five students. This was the first year that CLV had a VEX robotics team, and the first year the Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES hosted a tournament in their region. Some students focused on computer programming and others focused on mechanics or engineering.

The VEX competition required teams from different schools to work together to score more points than their opponent. In the playing field, there were 8 caps, each having a blue and a red side. Depending on what color team you were on, you had to flip the caps to your color. There were other tasks, too: placing a cap on the top of a long or short pole, pushing flags to your color and getting to the highest platform in the center of the playing field were all parts of the goals. It seemed that most teams focused on flipping the disks to its respective team’s color.

During each match, there were two parts to the competition. One part is called “autonomous.” During the autonomous phase of the match, you have a 15-second program for your robot to score points. One of the point-scoring tasks in the autonomous phase is to flip a disk to your color, flipping a flag, or finishing on the center platform. During the autonomous phase, you are not allowed to control your robot. It must be fully preprogrammed. If a team scores points in the phase, they act as bonus points added to the score at the end of the “driver controlled” phase.

After the autonomous phase, there is the 1 minute and 15 second “driver-controlled robot” phase.  During this phase, students must have programmed their robot to make movements that correspond to the driver’s movement of a joystick. This is not your "grandmother’s Atari Joystick:" this joystick is a modern gaming joystick that is complicated, and all robot controls must be programmed linking the joystick to the robot.

When students were asked at the competition if robotics class was their favorite, many said it was. Students learned a lot at the competition about different designs and strategies as well as working with other schools.