Since returning from the VEX World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, the Sacred Heart VEX Robotics team has been busy — planning, reflecting, and sharing their experiences. We sat down with three team members to talk more about their experiences.
This year’s VEX Robotics challenge game was called Turning Point. Can you explain a bit more about that?
Kannon Knutsvig: The goal is to use your robot to pick up balls and shoot them to flip flags to your color or to pick up and flip caps on the ground to your color. Either could score you a point. There is an autonomous operation for extra points, and “parking” which is two robots pushing.
What was a highlight for you?
Michael Suda: This is my first year participating, so it was interesting to just see how the competition works and then to try to design a robot that would work well to achieve the goals that were put before us. Also to meet other teams and see how they solved the same problem in a different way.
What awards did you earn this year?
Caden Knutsvig: This year we competed at State, Nationals, and Worlds. This year we won 12 awards, including two Excellence awards, twice we were named for the Judges Award and twice as Skills Finalists, we were tournament champions twice, and at almost every tournament we were in the finals. That’s a really big change from placing dead last for two years in a row. The Excellence award is for the all around “best in show” robot and is based off the team notebook, the score from talking to the judges, skills score, and your competition performance. It’s the highest honor you can get at a VEX competition and we got it twice this year… Which is really amazing!
What do you think made a difference last year to this year?
Michael Suda: Some of us had gone to a camp during the summer before competition started and we picked up some ideas there. There are two systems that are out for VEX systems right now, V4 is older, and V5 has newer motors. They are stronger, but you can use less of them. We were one of the few teams that got the V5 system early, but only had it for about a week before our first competition. It had a flywheel that would kind of shoot the ball like a baseball batting mechanism. We modified it throughout the year, but for the most part we kept the same basic design. We did develop a robot later on that had a catapult that threw the ball. There were a lot of factors that you could tweak with the catapult as to how fast or far you wanted the ball to launch.
What was the experience of competing at WORLDS like?
Kannon Knutsvig: The highlight for me at Worlds was to see 1,700 teams at the event — it was massive! To think that we made it to the world championship is pretty neat. You’re in the best of the best. It was nice to meet people from different cultures. I talked to people and brought back currency from all the countries I could – New Zealand, Philippines, China, UAE, South Korea, Canada, Columbia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Lebanon, Egypt, Mexico, Taiwan, Bahrain, Australia, Russia, Vietnam, Paraguay, and Saudi Arabia.
What challenges did you encounter?
Michael Suda: We’re looking at just making sure we have enough materials currently to keep a functioning robot. Ideally we would have more than one robot. It works really well, but having more materials will help us test our robot and see how it would work against other competitors. It would also help us try new things as there are multiple ways to solve the same issue or finding a more efficient way to solve a problem.