Photo above from left: Vincent Atkin, Coach Michael W. Rentz, Garrett Jones, Sean Kongkiat, and Kevin T. Mingle.
Lady’s Island Middle School fields robotics team to challenge high-schoolers
By Molly Ingram
Meet Team Cougar 6318C from Lady’s Island Middle School. Team Cougar 6318C is made up of four young men and their coach who are determined to challenge “the big guys” for a spot in the national championships in Louisville this coming April. And the challenge is a doozy. It is a robot playing a game called “Nothing but Net.” You guessed it. Robots playing basketball – kind of.
The competition is hosted by The VEX Robotics Competition, and is considered the ultimate STEM activity for middle school and high school students (ages 11-18). STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – an education focus that has become important as the US lags behind other countries in these four critical areas.
Each year, an engineering challenge is presented by VEX in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, use the VEX Robotics Design System to build innovative robots designed to score the most points possible in qualification matches, elimination matches and skills challenges. In addition to having a great time and building amazing robots, through their participation in the VEX Robotics Competition and their work within their team, students learn many academic and life skills.
The VEX Robotics Competition game for the 2015-2016 school year is called “Nothing but Net”, and was revealed at the 2015 VEX Robotics Competition World Championship.
There are several types of matches that the teams compete in; each designed to demonstrate a different skill from the team members. They are:
• Standard Matches: Two teams create an “alliance” and then compete against another alliance.
• Robot Skills Challenge: One robot & driver playing alone against the clock.
• Programming Skills Challenge: One robot using sensors to run autonomously.
• Online Challenges: Unique contests using CAD, animation, essays, and more
Kevin T. Mingle is a member of Team Cougar 6318C explains, “Everyone on the team has a different role to play. As for myself, I was the programmer and also the driver at one of our recent competitions. My other team mates, Sean Kongkiat, Vincent Atkin and Garrett Jones, their jobs were to design the Robot for the competition, and our team came in 2nd place against a ton of high school teams. We were pretty happy about that.”
Team Cougar then competed against the next round of competitors at the Dutch Fork Middle School in Irmo, SC. This gave the team a unique opportunity to compete against only middle school teams. Kevin reports, “There are 5 state qualifying spots up for grabs in that tournament. We’re going to give it our best!”
Hard as they tried, they didn’t win the last event at Dutch Fork Middle School. But plans are underway for competing again next year.
Michael W. Rentz is the coach of the Cougars. In his spare time he is a PLTW Gateway Master Teacher (a teaching system that provides engineering, biomedical, and computer science curriculum for middle school students that challenges, inspires, and offers schools variety and flexibility), Athletic Director, Head Football Coach, Head Baseball Coach, and finally the Robotic Coach at Lady’s Island Middle School. Kevin says, “Mr. Rentz is a great coach and each time we compete, we get better. Thanks coach!”
But Kevin’s mother, Kinda McEachern, sums up what all of us “old folks” wish for these kids as they go through life. Kinda hopes that Kevin and his teammates “never stop persevering in achieving their engineering dreams. If you four can think it, you can build it!” My sentiments exactly.