Two Keystone robotics teams advance to world championships

Four sixth grade students from the Keystone Elementary School are headed to Dallas, Texas, for the VEX Robotics Championships. For one team it was a classic case of going from last to first and for the other team it was a continued success story.

VEX Robotics is a program for elementary students through university students. Students must design, build, program and drive a robot to complete the challenge.

Aliviah Sweitzer and Kaylie Mount formed the “Stunning Stars” team. “We didn’t do so well with our first robot,’ said Sweitzer. “It was kind of broken. We got last place.”

Determined to improve, the team decided to build a new “Bot.”

“We tore apart our old one and built a new one,” she said. “It took a few hours.”

She said when the team went to the Cranberry competition the code kept turning the robot to the right.

“We did get eighth place in skills and we qualified for states,” said Mount.

At states the team surmounted those problems and finished first in team skills and second in team drive, which qualified them for the world championships.

“They basically went from last to first,” said Keystone Robotics Instructor Ryan Smith. Smith said the VEX code is similar to the code he teaches at Keystone in his class. “That makes it very easy for the students to pick up,” he said.

For the “Double Trouble” team of Allie and Addie Kline, it was a matter building on last year’s success.

“We didn’t know what robot to build last year so this year we decided to build our “bot” to meet the requirements of the game,” said Allie Kline. “We knew that we would be required to pick up blocks and put them in a container.”

Addie Kline said they tried two variations using the directions provided by VEX. “They didn’t work very well. We built a “bot” that was a variation on the original and it worked. It can pick up eight to 10 cubes and it runs smoothly,” she said. “The coding was set to run on smooth surfaces and that was a problem at Cranberry because the boards were uneven.”

The twin sisters won the Judge’s Award at Keystone and the teamwork championship. They were in first place in teamwork at the Cranberry competition when they suffered a malfunction in the finals. “We didn’t do very well,” said Addie Kline.

At the state championship they won first place in teamwork and the design award that is based on how well the robot performs.

They did have a recurring problem however. “We had to have an engineering notebook and last year we did it the night before the competition,” said Allie Kline. “We thought this year we would make it ahead of time but we accidently did it again because we lost it this year so the night before we had to do a new one.”

Keystone Superintendent Michael Hall said the students learn several skills in the VEX program including problem solving.

Although the school district is paying for teachers and students to travel to Dallas, the robotics club is seeking donations for the trip.