Jersey Shore High School robotics team heads to global competition

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette The Jersey Shore Area VEX Robotics Team will be competing in the VEX Robotics World Championship in Kentucky starting April 25. Pictured are Owen Knepp, sophomore, Tallon Anderson, junior, Ryan Stratton, senior and Rachel Garrett, sophomore working with the Team A robot which will be featured in the competition.

JERSEY SHORE — Going off to compete at a world competition on its second year as a team, the Jersey Shore Area Senior High School VEX Robotics team has qualified to compete at the 2018 VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, starting on April 25.

The competition will go on for four days, and the students will be competing with over 500 teams from around the globe.

This will be the team’s second time going to the world competition, and they have only been competing for two years.

Last year felt more like a trial year to learn how to do it, according to Ryan Stratton, senior.

“It was great to get there ourselves considering it was our first year competing in VEX,” he said. “I feel as though it’s gotten a lot better.”

He said he feels more confident in what the team is doing this year from everything they learned when they started out last year.

“This year, I feel as though we’re a multi-faceted team … I would say that it’s been a great year. I feel much more confident going to competitions

knowing the level of competition we’re going to be facing and knowing how I need to prepare for them,” he said.

He said last year was a lot of working on things last minute and trying too hard to make improvements on the robots too late, which made the materials less workable.

“I feel more calm this year and more relaxed with everything,” he said.

The seven students on two teams will be going to the competition with the group advisor and Jersey Shore career technology education teacher, S. Andrew Baker III. Team A consists of Stratton, Victoria Bellomo and Tony Ramos, all seniors, who will be competing in the world competition. Tallon Anderson, Rachel Garrett, Owen Knepp and Evan Fink make up the junior and sophomore Team B, who are going to observe at the competition.

“It is a world competition. There’s over 43 countries that are involved … We’re talking like Taiwan, Korea, China, Germany, Sweden … We’re talking about a whole global competition,” Baker said. “It’s phenomenal. There’s over a thousand teams that show up from around the world.”

The team creates robots to complete a task. This year, the robots have been working to lift and move traffic cones. The robot has attached wheels, so it can move and transport the cones to other locations. The students program the robots themselves, both to complete tasks automatically and for the students to manually control the robots using remotes.

Baker said last year they competed just to find out what the competition was about, and it also had a conflict with the team’s schedule that kept everyone from going.

Baker aligned the robotics the students build to that of government devices used to scan for potential bomb threats and save lives.

“It’s not about taking a standardized written test anymore. We’re going out and acquiring true skills, hands on skills … Knowledge is so available anymore out there from the internet,” he said. “Knowing what to do with the knowledge is more important … We’re teaching kids what to do with the knowledge and giving them hands on skills.”

Other students on the team said they enjoy participating because it’s a fun activity.

“I just find moving parts and electronics very interesting,” Garrett said. “I wanted to get involved with it this year, and it’s been going really well.”

She said her favorite part of the process is programming and physically building the robot.

“I’m also really interested in the collaboration with friends on the team … We all just have a lot of good fun,” she said.

The team camaraderie aspect also is important to Knepp.

“We’re always there for each other, and we definitely cover for each other. We always help each other out, and it’s more than a team. It’s like a family,” he said. “We have each other’s backs.”

He said the most challenging part was getting everything together in unison.

“There’s so many moving parts, so there’s many things that can go wrong. It’s so much of a luck thing, too. You can have something happen that’s completely out of your control,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are our fault, but it’s definitely a challenge getting everything together.”

Being part of the team was beneficial to Anderson.

“It’s opened up a lot of doors for me … Just programming the whole robot has opened up a lot of possibilities for me. It’s been a journey,” he said.

He said he knew he was always interested in engineering, but learning how to program the robots has helped him expand his interests and see how he can potentially apply them in the future toward possible careers.

“Seeing the team cooperate with one another, helping each other … It inspired me to join,” he said. “Just looking at the robot to see how it works, the common mechanics of it, is just what piqued my interest about it.”

Visit www.facebook.com/VEXTeam3701/ for more information about the team.

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