SHEFFIELD VILLAGE - Three Brookside Intermediate School teams will compete against 1,500 of the best robotics teams from across the United States, Canada, Great Britain, China and more than 40 other countries in Vex Robotics World Competition later this month in Louisville, Kentucky.
Robotics adviser Kevin Landis said this is the largest championship-bound group of elementary students Brookside has fielded in the six years since forming the robotics club. Last year the school sent two teams to world competition.
Last week, 11 fifth and sixth grade students sprawled out in Landis' classroom under the watchful eye of their adviser and teacher, Mitch Rion. All three teams were busy designing new robots.
Fifth grade students Caleb Bibb, Aydan Smith and Alex Vanmeter were tinkering with the arms of their robot named Scorpion, Jr. They began working on the robot's base shortly before the recent state tournament. "Once states was over, we went 'all in,’ ” said one.
The name derives from their robot's pinzer-like arms, which they believe look like scorpion arms.
This is the team's first trip to world competition, which will be held April 28-30. "It's a great accomplishment, Caleb said.
"We can brag about how to build a robot," said Aydan.
"I can take this into my career," Alex said. "I will look back and say 'Wow, I made it to worlds.’ "
Seated nearby, four boys who competed at world competitions last year with different teammates huddled over their newly built robot.
Elliot Rion, Gavin Blythe, Andrew Bilczo and Brad Horinger captured excellence and teamwork awards at the state tournament, qualifying them for worlds. As they designed a new competition robot, they also made additions to a notebook. They said it not only helps them keep track of changes and how they work, but also track other aspects of robotics. The notebook is evaluated by judges and factors into winning scores, they said.
Andrew and Brad grew interested in robotics watching Andrew's older brother, Michael, compete in a robotics tournament a few years ago. "I thought it was really cool," Brad said. Gavin said he, too, became interested in robotics through his brother.
The third world-bound team, also veterans of last year's tourney, are Nicholas Arra, Joe DeLuca, Tyler Kitzberger and Dominic Lundberg.
While they talked, they pulled items from boxes filled with construction material. At this point, the base of their new robot is completed, but the boys are still working on refinements to the arms and lifter.
When asked about upcoming worlds, Dominic spoke up. "The biggest challenge is to try to remain calm."
"Right now it's important to focus on building the new robot and working well with the team," he said.
Their goal is for their robot to run a lot smoother over a bumpy playing surface and to strengthen its arms so there is less shaking as it lifts objects.
Lest anyone think this is just some after-school tinkering, the boys acknowledged seeing a national news report about the electric wheelchair built by a Minnesota school robotics team for a handicapped toddler.
Two Brookside high school teams had previously qualified for world competition, which will be held April 24-27.