Schools team up to win state robotics championship

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Two Beaufort County high schools teamed up with a Charleston County school last Saturday to win the inaugural 2014 VEX Robotics Championship in Columbia.

Whale Branch Early College High, Bluffton High and Palmetto Scholars Academy in North Charleston joined forces to take the state robotics competition’s top prize.

The teams worked for months to design, build, program and direct by remote control the robots that competed in the weekend’s highly competitive games.  The robots were required to fit inside an 18-inch cube to start the matches, but most grew far outside that envelope once the matches got under way.

After a series of two-minute matches throughout Saturday morning, Whale Branch’s “Robo Warriors” were ranked 10th.  In the afternoon’s main competition, teams were chosen based on their success in the morning events to compete in a single-elimination tournament to determine a championship team. Whale Branch formed an alliance with 21st-ranked Bluffton and the 11th-ranked “Fembots” from Palmetto Scholars Academy in North Charleston, then the three teams fought their way to the championship.

Whale Branch robotics coach Tammy Vaught said her team’s seventh-ranked alliance with Bluffton and Palmetto Scholars Academy was viewed as a long shot by the VEX crowd because the No. 1 alliance they faced for the championship had dominated their semi-final matchup and scored five times as many points as their opponents.   But the alliance featuring the two Beaufort County teams won the best two-of-three championship round.

“The kids had a plan, and they executed it perfectly,” Vaught said.  “It took all three teams working together to win this state championship.”

The goal of robotics competitions is for students to learn engineering, math, marketing, research and leadership skills that will help prepare them for high-tech jobs and future education.

“To have two of our district’s high schools win this championship — and to see them win by joining forces with each other and a third school — is more than merely satisfying,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss.  “It demonstrates that our students understand how to work effectively as a team, and those skills will help them in the careers they pursue after they leave school.”

The students on the Whale Branch “Robo Warriors” team were: Geordy DelCid; Da’Shawn Smith; Rakeem Pippins; Johnnie Fields; Jerevonte Middleton; Auntarious Butler; Jakob Lambert and Aurora Lopez.

Cougar Robotics Team

The Cougar Robotics Team from Lady’s Island Middle School competed last Saturday in the Palmetto State VEX Championships in Chapin. They struggled with the robot and technical issues all day but the team kept working and improving the robot. They finished the qualification rounds with a 4-4 record and were picked to compete in the Championship Tournament. Their alliance finished 7th overall.

There were only six middle school teams that qualified versus 22 high school teams.

Robotics summit winners