Three Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School RoboKnights robotics teams took their robots to the VEX Robotics Competition state competition early in March and competed against 60 teams from throughout the state of Alabama. The 2018-2019 VRC challenge, “Turning Point,” requires robots to perform a variety tasks to score points, including flipping caps, picking up and placing caps onto poles, toggling flags by pushing them or shooting them with plastic balls, and climbing onto platforms. It’s a complex array of tasks that requires months of planning, building, testing, and practicing to perfect. During competition, teams have two minutes to score as many points as possible, with the first 15 seconds being pre-programmed and autonomous and the remainder being driver-controlled.
Montgomery Catholic has competed at the Alabama state level every year for the past three years, and this is the first time that an MCPS team has advanced to the next level. Team Lost in the Ross, comprised of senior Hunter Vaccaro, junior Arthur Murray, sophomore Aidan Cochran, and freshmen Catherine Aaron and Chris Lathram, advanced to the final round of competition, securing them a place at the upcoming VEX Robotics World Competition. Lost in the Ross is one of 7 teams from the state of Alabama, and they will be competing among 580 top teams from around the world.
"This experience will be eye-opening,” said RoboKnights faculty advisor Vicki Petters. “We will be interacting with students from different cultures in a common goal. Our students are fine ambassadors for our school, our city and the state of Alabama."
With all the different approaches to the Turning Point challenges, there is sure to be a huge variety of robots. “I’m excited about seeing all of the other robot designs,” said Aidan Cochran. “I’ve been involved with robotics since the 7th grade, and I enjoy coming up with different ideas for each robot each year.”
Arthur Murray, who has competed in the VRC program since the 8th grade, is excited about the networking aspect of competition. “I enjoy meeting people who love doing the same thing that I do,” he said. “The thing that excites me the most about going to Worlds is that I’m going to meet the best of the best, not only from the United States but also from places like China, Chile, and Australia.”
Echoing the amount of diversity that will be seen at the VRC Worlds competition, volunteer coach Robert Russell feels that robotics helps to encourage people from all backgrounds to try something new. “You don’t have to be an athlete or mechanical genius to compete,” he said. “Whatever category you look at, robotics is represented by a wide assortment of people—age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, academic and athletic interest, etc.—and it’s only getting more diverse.”
The multi-day VEX World Championship, which includes additional competitions at the elementary and university level, will take place April 24-27 in Louisville, Kentucky. More than 1,600 teams from 30 countries will gather to compete and collaborate.