Submitted photo
Robotics team members.

Last year, the White Pine County School District started a competitive VEX IQ robotics program at David E. Norman Elementary.  Last year’s team included sixteen students, separated into four teams.  This year, the program has expanded to include thirty students in grades 3-8 from McGill Elementary, DEN Elementary, and White Pine Middle School.  The students are separated into 4 elementary-level teams and 4 middle school-level teams.  The elementary teams, called the DENBots, are coached by Career and College Readiness specialist Caroline Murphree and the middle school teams, called the Electric Cougars, are coached by our new high school English teacher Deborah Nielson. The teams have competed and performed well in four tournaments so far this year.

In this year’s challenge, the student teams had to construct robots that are able move cubes and balls to scoring zones.  The cubes are scored by either lifting them onto platforms or carrying them to color-coded scoring zones in the corners of the board. Balls are scored by putting them inside of or on top of the cubes.  The competition is separated into the teamwork and skills challenges.  

In the teamwork challenge, random pairs of teams have one minute to score as many points as possible. The teams with the highest average scores advance to a final round where the two teams who score the most points together become the teamwork champions.

In skills matches, teams drive by themselves and program their robots to score points autonomously. The scores from driving and programming are added together to give the total skills score and the highest scoring team is the skills champion.

The first annual White Pine VEX IQ Challenge Tournament was held in the DEN Gym on October 19th, attended only by local teams.  At this tournament, the Buckin’ Engineers team (Michael Van Tassell, Guinevere Callender, and Carter Nielson) and Minotaur team (Tegan Ricci, Masson Blades, Caiden Castellano, and Camdon Weaver) were Teamwork Champions.  Buckin’ Engineers also won the Excellence Award and the Skills Award.  Wall-V (Samuel Sorensen and Mo Van Tassell) won the Design Award, Bots of Fire (Rebecca Murphree, Merissa Carson, Eva Sorensen, and Neah DeLaCerda) won the STEM Research Project Award, and Brainiacs (Duncan Hill, Jillian Bath, Chloe Hellmann, Jenny Nicolls, and Cecil Kunz) won the Judges Award.

On November 2, the Electric Cougars teams travelled to Farmington, Utah to compete in the Farmington VEX IQ Extravaganza.  At the end of the qualification round, Buckin’ Engineers were in 2nd, Cobras (Crichton Swetich, Connor Hill, Caleb Hellmann, and Thomas Murphree) were in 9th, Wall-V were in 18th, and Bots of Fire were in 21st of 27 teams.  Buckin’ Engineers, Cobras, and Wall-V all advanced to the finals round.  Wall-V and their alliance partner, Team Tie Dye from Farmington, scored 40 points to finish in 8th place. The Cobras and their alliance partner, Disco DJs from Farmington, scored 34 points to finish in 9th place.  The Buckin’ Engineers and their partner, RoboKnights B from Kaysville, scored 91 points to become the Teamwork Champions.  Buckin’ Engineers also won the Design Award.

On November 9th the DENbots and the Electric Cougars both travelled to Lied STEM Academy in Las Vegas.  At the end of the qualification round, Buckin’ Engineers were in 2nd, Wall-V in 5th, Brainiacs in 10th, Minotaur in 11th, Flying Unipiggies (Brindel Blades, Emery Balch, Catie Murphree, Breanna Nielson) in 15th, Nyan Weirdos (Kalli Ray, Tahlia Aquino, Kaleb Nielson, Landon Neilson) in 20th, Cobras in 22nd, and Bots of Fire in 25th of 38 teams.  In the finals round, Flying Unipiggies and their alliance partner, Narwhals of Doom (an independent team from White Pine County), scored 40 points to finish in 5th place. Minotaur was disqualified due to a minor rule violation. Brainiacs, who were allied with  C.O.L.T.S C from Canarelli Middle School in Las Vegas, scored 10 points to finish in 7th place. Wall-V was allied with Beeters from Engineering for Kids in Las Vegas and scored 71 points to finish 3rd.  The Buckin’ Engineers and their alliance partner, 275A from Cram Middle School, scored 83 points to win the Teamwork Champions Award.

Finally, on November 16th, the teams competed at Green Valley High School in Henderson.  After qualification, Minotaur was in 1st place, Buckin’ Engineers in 2nd, Cobras in 5th, Wall-V in 10th, Nyan Weirdos in 13th, Brainiacs in 17th, Bots of Fire in 19th, and Flying Unipiggies in 27th of 31 teams.  In the final round, Wall-V and their partner, C.O.L.T.S G from Canarelli Middle School, scored 82 points to finish 2nd. The Cobras, who were allied with Robot Squad from Engineering for Kids, scored 41 points to finish 5th.  The Buckin’ Engineers and Minotaur were allied together in the top seed scoring 86 points to become Teamwork Champions again!

Mrs. Murphree and Mrs. Nielson are excited about how well the teams are doing and are looking forward to a successful season this year with such a promising start.  There are a few more regular tournaments in December and January.  The Elementary State Championship and the Middle School Championship, which determine advancement to national and world-wide competitions, will take place in February.

We would like to thank Mt. Wheeler Power, Robinson Mine, Tesla, and the Robot Education Competition Foundation for sponsoring our program!

Submitted photo
The Flying Unipiggies: Brindel Blades, Breanna Nielson and Catie Murphree working on their robot.

Submitted photo
Caiden Castellano and Camdon Weaver (driving for Minotaur) and Michael Van Tassell and Carter Nielson (driving for Buckin’ Engineers) at the end of the final round.