The Sacred Heart VEX Robotics team’s focus is learning and exercising skills such as programming and mechanical design. The goal is to foster 21st-century skills such as teamwork, problem solving, project management and communication. Under the advice of Amber Mattingley, a Science & Technology teacher at Sacred Heart, the students are tasked with the jobs of being robot builders, drivers and programmers.
“Robotics as a sport, hobby and job is growing,” says Mattingley. “We need to show our students how to become a part of this new medium of expression.”
And Sacred Heart has managed to fill that need rather nicely. With the recent increase in interest in robotics at Sacred Heart School, Mattingley is pleased to be fielding two teams this year, one for 6th-8th graders and one for 9th-12th graders. “Larger student participation really shows the need for clubs that are not sport related,” says Mattingley. “It also shows growing interest in the field of robotics.”
Freshman team leader Katie Brindamour says that robotics has enriched her school experience. “This is my third year doing it, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Home Turf Competition
In the last two years Sacred Heart has participated in a variety of scrimmages and competitions but is excited to be hosting 24 teams from the region in their first ever VEX Robotics Competition on November 19th. The competition will feature not only demonstrations of robotic operation in the form of a game, but will allow the teams to compete for trophies and advancement to the State Meets.
“I wanted to host the competition because the closest one for us this year would have been the cities,” says Mattingley, who feels having an opportunity to compete locally is important for students who can now share this interest with their families friends.
This year’s competition, called Starstruck, challenges the students to build a robot that can play on a 12×12 foot field. “There are stars and cubes,” says Brindamour. “We have to get them over the wall, and there are points depending on how and where they land.” Some of the two-minute competition has to be autonomously running via preprogrammed commands in the robot and some of the competition is allowed to be driver controlled.
“It’ll be interesting to program and drive for this year’s game,” says 9th grader, Jacob Kraft, who has experience piloting the robot from last year. “Autonomous operation is harder to program.”
Importance of STEM Opportunities for Students
The Robotics team offers students the opportunity to put into practice their own interests in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). In addition to clubs such as Robotics and the recent addition of the Science Club for 7-12th grade, Sacred Heart has been offering a STEM class as an elective to students in 9th-12th grades for the past few years. STEM at Sacred Heart is a hands-on course that enables students to start analyzing how Math and Science are related. The purpose of STEM, is to ignite, excite and prepare students to have a better understanding of science.
And the Robotics team at Sacred Heart, which uses the VEX system, fits that purpose nicely. According to VEX President, Jason Morella, Robotics serves an important outlet for students interested in STEM fields. “It’s not just about the competition. This is a competition and just so much more. It’s all the best of academics and the best of sports all put together.”
Anticipated Growth in the Future
Mattingley cites growing interest in the field of robotics along with a growth in enrollment as a reason for expanding from one to two teams this year. “If my student body keeps growing like it has, we may need to divide the middle school teams again into two different teams next year,” says Mattingley. “What a fantastic problem to have!”
A video explaining this year’s challenging game can be found below.