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Jersey Shore robotics team advances to World Competition

On March 4, the Jersey Shore Area High School VEX Robotics teams traveled to the Sarah Heinz House in Pittsburgh to compete in the Western Pennsylvania State Cham­pionship Robotics Tourn­ament. Two teams from Jersey Shore (3701-A and 3701-B) competed in the event. In addition, there were 24 other teams from around western and southern Pennsylvania.

Team 3701-A “Spyke” placed second in individual skills and programming challenges, fifth overall in random team competition and first in the state in tournament team competition. With their capture of first in tournament team competition, they became only one of six high school teams in the state who are eligible to attend the VEX World Competition, which will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, April 19-22 and will consist of 800 teams from 49 countries.

Team 3701-B “Tyke” came in 18th overall in individual competition, and placed eighth in the state in tournament team competition. This was Jersey Shore’s first year of competitive robotic events, and their first ever state tournament.

VEX competitions, presented by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, is the largest and fastest growing middle and high school robotics program worldwide, consisting of more than 16,000 teams globally in more than 49 countries. It is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) based program, requiring students to maintain engineering journals, create technical drawings both by hand and on the computer and show mathematical calculations for power consumption, gear ratio and mechanical support. Each of these items are factored into the team’s scores for various awards.

Each year, teams of students are given the challenge of designing and building robots to play against other teams from around the state, nation and world in game-based engineering challenges. Students compete as individuals in timed challenges, designing and programming robots to complete tasks autonomously (controlled through computer programming only) and in one-on-one and alliance matches, with teams playing against each other.

“I like the VEX competitions over many other robotic programs that are out there,” said Andrew Baker, engineering technology instructor and team advisor. “The competition teaches teamwork and problem solving, as well as engineering, programming and mechatronics. Unlike many programs where the goal is simply to destroy your opponent, with this you have to perform real-life tasks, and work as a team with others that you may or may not know, depending upon who you are randomly paired with.”

Jersey Shore’s team “Spyke,” named for the elder bulldog in popular cartoons, consists of junior Ryan Stratton and sophomore Nash Berfield. This is Stratton’s second year at Jersey Shore, during which time he has competed in similar programs through the school’s Technology Student Association (TSA). This is both students’ first year working together as a team, and their first year in dedicated VEX competition. Previous to the state tournament, they had competed in five different VEX competitions in New York, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Johnstown, bringing home two Judges Awards for excellence, an Engineering Award and a First in Tournament Award. The Engineering Award and First in Tournament Awards, captured at Forest Hills, Johnstown, automatically qualified them to compete at the state championship tournament.

Team “Tyke,” named for the younger bulldog in popular cartoons, consists of freshmen Evan Fink, Katie Doebler and Owen Knepp. This team began their run more than halfway through the season, after observing other members and expressing their desire to compete. They also competed at Tioga, New York, and Johnstown events, placing as semi-finalists in Tioga (their first match) and capturing a fourth place tournament win at Forest Hills. Their fourth place win allowed them to compete at Pittsburgh as well.

“When we started off the year, my focus was to give the students some experience, and to help them better compete in the TSA (Technology Student Association) program which I run at the high school,” Baker said. “Neither myself nor the students ever dreamed that we would make it this far. The students have shown a great amount of dedication and determination to learn and perform.”

Team “Spyke” (3701-A) is preparing for the VEX World Competition. In the past, this competition has been held in Australia, South Korea and Anaheim, California. In addition to upgrading their robot, both in terms of hardware and programming, the students will attempt to raise more than $1,500 to attend the event.

“We are one of only six teams from Pennsylvania who have earned the chance to compete in this event,” said Stratton, “Spyke” team leader. “We are going to do everything that we can to attend, as we might never advance to this level again.”

Team “Tyke” (3701-B) is planning on attending the Technology Student Association (TSA) state conference at Seven Springs in April, where they will put their skills to the test with the VEX robotics in an effort to attend the TSA National Competition in Orlando in June.

In addition to competitive events, the Jersey Shore VEX Robotics team has participated in community events, such as Penn College’s Science Fair, as well as multiple school and community open houses, demonstrating not only their competition skills, but different robots, which have been designed and constructed in the classroom.

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