The competition was furious Saturday, with a trip to 'LA" potentially on the line. That may sound like the American Idol auditions at Scott Trade Center last Spring. This was more like the American Idol of robotics.
It was a battle in mental athletics at Parkway North High School, with close to 20 teams, from 6 schools in 4 states: Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Tennessee.
The Parkway North team tweaked their robot down to the wire, but could not cash in on their home field advantage, in the St. Louis VEX robotics competition in the high school gym.
The students built their robots and used joysticks to maneuver them around the playing field. The 'bots' had to lift objects (balls and short cylinders) and drop them into goals.
There were all kinds of 'bots' in the competition: elevator 'bots', escalator 'bots', claw 'bots', and push or plow 'bots'.
“I’ve been a tinkerer since I was 3,”said Jarret Self , a member of the team from Adrian, Missouri, about 60 miles south of Kansas City. “I like doing everything, anything with my hands. I think we`re doing good.
Ryan Helgren from Parkway North and his partner, Alex Fenlon, tried a special 'high 5' they concocted to try to change their luck.
“We seem to do a lot better if we do that before our matches. I don’t know why. Maybe it`s morale,” Helgren joked.
The winning team would earn a spot in the national completion and perhaps the world championship in Anaheim, California.
“The nice thing is we`re getting everybody involved in robotics, getting them interested in the science and mathematics and engineering of this robotics. In the end that’s what I’m here for to get the kids interested in that kind of stuff,” said event sponsor and Parkway North teacher, Brad Ziegler.
Air Force recruiters were even at the event, looking for future talent. Most of the students had been building and refining their "bots" since the beginning of the school year.
A team of home-schooled competitors from Cedar Rapids, IA, called Androids of the Round Table won the event. They’ve qualified for the world championships. Parkway North’s team came in third.
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