By Daniel T. Murphree

Submitted photo
Back Row (left to right): Daniel Murphree (Asst. Coach), Brooklynn Reed, Merissa Carson, Kalli Ray, Crichton Swetich, Thomas Murphree, Caiden Castellano, Camdon Weaver, and Tegan Ricci; Front Row: Jillian Bath, Neah DeLaCerda, Rebecca Murprhee, Catherine Murphree, Caroline Murphree (Coach), Rachel Murphree, Masson Blades, Tegan Ricci.

On February 1st and 2nd the David E. Norman Robotics Teams competed in the Nevada State Finals of the VEX IQ Challenge Tournament at Texas Station in Las Vegas.  For this state tournament, the DENBots faced 21 elementary school teams from throughout the state.

On Friday night the teams had skills competitions and practice runs for the team challenge.  All four DEN teams scored in the top 10 in skills with the Super Stackers (Tahlia Aquino, Thomas Murphree, Kalli Ray, and Crichton Swetich) in 7th with 10 points, the Blue Bunnies (Jillian Bath, Eliora Pyle, and Catherine Murphree) and Rock Team (Merissa Carson, Neah DeLaCerda, Rebecca Murphree, and Brooklynn Reed) tying for 5th place with 11 points, and the Minotaur team (Masson Blades, Caiden Castellano, Tegan Ricci, and Camdon Weaver) taking first place with a score of 17 points.  Because of this first place finish, Minotaur was awarded the Nevada State Robotic Skills Champion award, qualifying them for the CREATE U.S. Open in April!

The teamwork rounds were on Saturday.  All of the DEN teams played hard and pushed their robots to the limits to do well in this section of the competition, taking three of the top 10 spots in qualification to advance to the finals round.  The Minotaur team finished qualification in first place with 77 cumulative points, the Super Stackers came in 5th at 61 points, and the Rock team came in 7th with 59 points.  The Blue Bunnies had a harder day and came in 21st place with 38 points, but had fun just the same.

The finals competition was a real nail-biter.  The Super Stackers teamed with Hickey Robotics tied for 4th in the finals with a score of 6 after some technical difficulties.  The Rock Team teamed with McCaw Robot Academy came in 3rd place with a score of 10 points.  Then Minotaur teamed with one of the teams from Nate Mack Robotics (last year’s state champions) first tied for 1st place against an alliance of two other Nate Mack teams with a total of 11 points resulting in a tie breaker round.  In the tie breaker, Minotaur’s alliance was able to bring in 15 points to finish in second place.

During the awards ceremony the Rock Team was surprised by bringing home a second trophy for DEN Elementary for their STEM project about improving security camera coverage at the school.  

The Minotaur team will be traveling to Council Bluffs, Iowa to compete against students from around the world in the CREATE US Open on April 1-3.

Team coach Caroline Murphree says “I am extremely proud of what these kids have accomplished this year.  They started out as first-time competitors who had never even built a robot but ended up competitive at a state level and Minotaur qualified to advance to an international tournament!  The biggest competitors in Nevada know our names now.  We’ve had a long road, but we’ve had fun and learned a lot along the way!”