WV high schoolers compete in Charleston Robotics Tournament


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – High school students from around West Virginia participated in new statewide tournament.

The first robotic tournament for the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission was held on Thursday.  

Thirty-five teams competed and each team was made up of two to 10 high school students. The students work year-round to prepare their robots to be able to compete in a series of tasks during the competition.  

 “The challenge here is for teams to utilize automation, computer coding, mechanical, even electrical engineering, because they have to wire everything together and stuff in order to build the best robot possible to earn the most points,” Todd Ensign, ERC Program Manager for Nasa IV&V said.  

Teams’ robots could be no larger than 18 inches in each direction and they competed in a 12 by 12-foot field. In the competition, students had their robots pick up a ball and put it into basketball hoops of different heights.   

“Some robots, they just have a little claw, and they grab it (the ball) and they can only get to one height.” Ensign said. “It’s a lot of driving around and maneuvering and it’s very challenging on the driver. Some robots have built a massive amount of autonomy, utilizing sensors and programming and they just basically hit one button and the robot sucks in three or four balls, they hit another button it goes over to any different height basket and fills it up.” 

Each team gained points for each competition and then was ranked. At the end of the day the top three teams got a trophy.   

Robotics was declared a varsity sport in West Virginia last year and participants said there’s a lot of life lessons learned from it.  

“Probably the biggest take away for me was probably the aspect of teamwork because teamwork is essential for vex,” Blake Spangler, Senior at Huntington Saint Joseph High School said. “You won’t accomplish much if you think you can just do everything yourself and so I definitely think that’s the biggest takeaway is not only learning how to work on a team, but learning how to lead a team.” 

The tournament is put on by Fairmont State University’s College of Science and Technology, with NASA’s I-V and V Program and Education Resource Center. 

The ERC will also be hosting an Aerial Drone event Saturday May, 15 at the TriState Airport in Huntington. 

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