Tag Archives: VEX Robotics

Ready, Set, BOTS!!: Rising to the Challenge of Engineering

If you recall the 1998-2004 TV show, “Robot Wars”, then something like this may look familiar:

Classic 90's Robot Wars

Pic from http://mondaymorning.nitrkl.ac.in/. A classic Robot from from the 90’s, when tenacity had no soul!

Chainsaws, ejecting and retractable prods, spinning hammers, and all types of medieval and modern weaponry thwarted these home-made robots into the arena with one objective: PREVAIL AS CHAMPION!! The science of these constructions is engineering. Engineering helps solve problems and helps things work together as a unit (my self-definition). The calculus of these final constructions dictate success or not; whether the output was optimized or not. I’m a writer first, then, a fan of knowledge, and then a bunch of other things after that. Considering that I exude knowledge through writing, perhaps I am a fan of knowledge first? Either way, my disposition states my relating knowledge and writing. I was heading into my night class that was two hours and fourty-five minutes long and I see a large concession sign. I thought that an event had been held in the new EC3 center in Elizabethtown, KY (where most of my regional WKU classes are held), but was informed upon inquiry that there would be a robotics competition on 2/7/2015 from 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM EST. I put the verbal invitation in my pocket (actually on the top of a page of notes I would later take during class!).


Photo taken by Harrison Isom

This center enables HS students to college credits after passing certain prerequisites. At WKU fall ‘2014, I met a young lady that was a first year college student and a sophomore, due to her college credits earned while in HS (30). This ambitious CIA employed seeker, is now going to be a triple major in the same four years that many college student will earn one degree! Inside this building, banner’s dripped spirit from respective Hardin County High Schools and Middle Schools in Competition; none more feared that my school of Alum, Central Hardin High School. Upward the stairs, tables freckled the floor with hand-made robots, both compacted and erect like towers. Straight ahead was the Game-Zone.

Travis Yates Interview

Me and my inquisition fell me into the expertise of a young man’s grand-father. The subject of our discussion was 7th Grader, Travis Yates.

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I was pleased to be able to get the competitive engineer’s attention post-face-off. He was humble in telling me that his partner, Matthew V. did most of the construction for the robot, while he helped with the motor (as far as engineering is concerned). I observed becoming traits from Travis: a regal humbleness, and honor to display his skills, from a thunderful competitor (his competitiveness was told to me by his Grandfather). I noticed that Travis’ robot was pivoting for a couple of seconds and asked him what challenges he faced during his driving in competition arena. He replied that a wheel wasn’t responding to the control request. This can be seen at 0:53 seconds. in the above video. Travis remains back in action as he still has atleast four games guaranteed in the Round Robin’ style, Tournament play. I asked Travis what sparked his interest in the mechanics of robot engineering. He responded that he used to hold a flashlight while his dad would work on automobiles; this is a humble beginning for a strong aficionado.

Travis Yates and Mathew v's robot, 534, at the VEX competition at Etown's IC3 building in 2015.

Travis Yates and Mathew v’s robot, 534, at the VEX competition at Etown’s IC3 building in 2015.

Grant and Clay- Robot 5454F

Travis Yates also told me that in the future he would like to study engineering; so would I, at perhaps a Master’s or PhD level. If not, I like to intrigue myself on the theories of engineering. I step out of the arena area and see  the white sign I saw Thursday night, CONCESSIONS. The best part of the concession was the affordable prices. I was led by Travis’ Grandmother to see him again, she was pointing to a monument of a robot that pronounced terror among debted competitors. I spoke shortly with Travis about the scoring system before I met two students from ECS or Elkhorn Crossing Schools. I found out that the engineers and robot builders were not too engulfed with the name of their machines, in fact, one team from ECS mentioned that they were not allowed (by their faculty instructor) to name their robot, which makes sense to me. I spoke with Grant Henderson, whom was a fourth year VEX competitor and HS sophomore and another one of his three teammates, Clay Hicks. The two were quick to tell me that competing in VEX tournaments was a team effort. Grant was the Chief Strategist and Builder/Designer and Clay was the programmer and driver. Clay explained to me how these machines are made from scratch.

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Currently, I am studying HTML5 coding, and extra points in the VEX competition are awarded for the best ‘Autonomis’. Autonomis is when the robot acts according to a computer code that was programmed for it. What happens exactly is that the code for ‘Autonomis’ is downloaded to the Robot’s ‘brain’ with a USB. Then the ‘brain’ is synced with the controller by a ‘tether-cord’. From there, it’s remote controlling and execution in the arena. Grant and Clays blueprint plans were in the hands of judges in hopes of winning the, “Award for Excellency”. In the past the two had won  2 tournaments and a Judges Award. I would guess that they will win more than that in the future to come. Take a look at how their robotic machine works, in action!

Finally, I’m back at the concession stand. “Can I have a hotdog?”. They were not ready. $1.00 for a hotdog, sure. I’ll wait. Meantime, I see three amigos in familiar blue shirts. They turned out to be Elkhorn students too. The team functioned like the others team, and are competing for a common goal, engineered supremacy and championship. Through lateral conversation, I discovered that this team gotten a bid to state earlier this season. So they are competing for more accolades today. Aaron Wesley was the controller, Michael Law a builder, and Maddie Wood, the coder, to say the least. This was their 5th year competing in VEX Robotics competitions. They truly dominated by a wide margin at this game, and it is too bad that my amateur leaf came into my writing domain tonight, because I do not have their video. If I do find it, then I will post it. Sorry guys, if you’re reading.

So, even though I am a business student, I know that engineering and architecture holds keys to the formatting of the physical future. All the students mentioned in this article said that they would like to or plan to study engineering in post-secondary school. Today, they all Rose to the Challenge of Engineering.

Harrison Isom signing off!!


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