(left to right): Drafting & Engineering Technology junior Joseph Skowronski and senior Tyler Church, both of Douglas; Drafting & Engineering Technology junior Antonio Romeo of Millbury; Drafting & Engineering Technology senior Spencer Rogers of Upton; Drafting & Engineering Technology junior Aiden Belanger of Blackstone; Drafting & Engineering Technology junior Nathan Lamberson of Northbridge; Electronics & Engineering Technology junior Jonathan Lynch of Mendon; Drafting & Engineering Technology junior Alden Payne of Milford; and Drafting & Engineering Technology junior Jacob Novick of Northbridge.
Of the 16,000 teams worldwide that competed in the 2015-2016 VEX Robotics program, only 1,000 are advancing to this summer’s VEX Worlds Robotics Competition. Of those 1,000 teams, three are from Blackstone Valley Tech.
After qualifying for the international competition during the Southern New England VEX Championship on March 5, ten Valley Tech students comprising three teams are set to represent the United States in the 2016 VEX Worlds on April 20-23. The Valley Tech crew will join students hailing from 37 nations in Louisville, Kentucky, to see which VEX robotics team is the best in the world.
The 2015-2016 series of VEX robotics events featured a “Nothing But Net” challenge in which teams operated mobile robots of their own design and construction to see whose robot could earn the most points by catapulting foam balls into goals of varying height, difficulty, and point-value. In addition to remote control, each robot was required to autonomously compete via student-designed programming for a portion of each event. Blackstone Valley Tech VEX Robotics Project Manager Michael Faticanti explained that over the course of the VEX season, BVT students had numerous opportunities to apply the engineering principle of trial and error.
“They can modify their robots at any point during the season,” Faticanti said. “They can look at other robots at a competition and say, ‘Oh, I like that. Let’s use those wheels on our robot.’ Then they come back to shop and go about refining their robots. Teachers supply leadership, but it’s the students designing and programming the robots.”
Faticanti said that this year, Valley Tech increased student-access to VEX robotics, thanks in large part to a $5,000 donation from EMC Corporation that allowed for the purchase of kits to construct 12 new VEX robots. Now that three of the school’s teams have earned spots at the world championship, the Valley Tech robotics program is on the lookout for other sources of financial support.
“They earned their spots in Louisville, but they still have to buy their plane tickets,” Faticanti explained. “Between travel, food, and lodging, it’s about $5,000 per team to compete at VEX Worlds. The students are doing everything they can to get there.”
Business owners and other Valley Tech supporters interested in donating to the fundraising effort can contact Michael Faticanti by phone at (508)-529-7758 ext. 2160, or by email at [firstname.lastname@example.org]. Proceeds raised will be distributed evenly among the three Valley Tech teams.
As for the ten students gearing up for VEX Worlds, Drafting & Engineering Technology senior Tyler Church of Douglas said the next few weeks will be spent fine tuning their robots and scoping out opponents from countries including Japan, China, Syria, Canada, and Mexico. In true Valley Tech style, Church and his teammates did a thorough statistical analysis to determine that although Canada and China are expected to be the stiffest competition, the boys from Upton are far from outmatched.
“We’ve got more than a decent chance of doing well,” Church said.