OGDEN — The large metal robot aggressively tossed square beanbags and large rubber jacks over the fence. Although the machinery smacked into the floor and knocked against other jacks in the field, it stayed together.
At the helm on Tuesday, March 14, with a video game controller in the Weber Innovation Center, Fremont High School senior Madison Wadsworth guided the robot back and forth to collect more objects and toss them over the fence during the 60-second trial run.
“Thirty-six points,” CTE Coordinator John Donley said. “You’re rusty!”
After a few more runs through the course, Wadsworth easily scored 40 points.
The team is one of four in the Weber School District that qualified to compete in the Worlds VEX Robotics Competition in Kentucky April 19-22.
Donley said the district usually has at least two teams that go, but this year is the first time he has seen four qualify.
“They’re all really excited to compete,” he said.
The all-girl high school team was the only all-girl team to compete at Utah’s state level.
Makaiya Nunn, a Fremont High senior who is co-captain and the team’s programmer, said she has only seen one other all-girl team compete at the state level, and they weren’t there this year.
“I’ve never really worried about it, but there have been times where our team has been overlooked. But we’ve always been able to step up and show them, ‘Hey, we can do this!’” she said.
All five girls on the team described one competition where despite being highly ranked, other teams didn’t want to partner with them in a doubles skill competition.
“We came in and destroyed,” Nunn said. “We came in second place.”
Nunn’s father Robert said it has been a lot of fun watching his daughter create and operate the robot. He’s excited for her to attend Utah Valley University for computer programming.
“The state competition, the reason why it was so impressive, was because after they qualified for it they had one last tournament and after that they decided to dismantle the robot an rebuild it with different gear ratios to make it faster and stronger,” he said.
Donley said at the high school level, the worlds competition will consist of 15 seconds of autonomous programming followed by a volleyball-like match against other robots competing to get the most objects on the opposite side of the wall. Teams can win titles in match points, design and other categories.
Athough there are parameters the girls had to follow, they built their robot from scratch with VEX parts and named it LoosElectric — Lucy for short — because of the machine’s tendency to shock the girls and have screws come loose.
The school had nine teams this year led by parent volunteers. Frost said the winning groups consists of fourth, fifth and sixth-grade students, half boys and half girls.
The teams start out with generic robot models they use everyday inspiration, like elevators, to modify and improve.
“It’s just so lovely they work together and they know they have maybe different strengths, but they’re all able to do it,” Frost said.
Another team from Kanesville Elementary School also qualified to go to the international competition.
“I still play soccer and love sports and I never thought a robotics competition would be thrilling but it’s really like a sports event,” Frost said. “It’s super fun.”
There are 540 teams going to the competition from every state in the nation and several foreign countries including New Zealand, Puerto Rico, China and Japan.
“It really is a world championship,” Donley said.