The FSDB Deaf Middle School Robotics team traveled to Austin, Texas, on February 6-9, 2020, to compete in the inaugural NTID Regional Stem Center (NRSC) VEX IQ Challenge Squared Away. A total of twenty-four middle school teams from 13 states descended upon the Texas School for the Deaf for two days of skills and collaborative competition.
Students representing FSDB were seventh-graders Jalrik Alvarez, Jazmine Ellis and Myianeii Murray, along with coaches Monica Cambron and Angela Maxey.
The VEX IQ Challenge Squared Away is played on a four foot by eight foot rectangular field. Two robots compete in the Teamwork Challenge as an alliance in 60-second long teamwork matches, working collaboratively to score points.
Teams also compete in the Robot Skills Challenge, where one robot takes the field to score as many points as possible. These matches consist of Driving Skills Matches, which will be entirely driver-controlled, and Programming Skills Matches, which will be autonomous with limited human interaction.
At the start of the competition, FSDB student Jalrik Alvarez volunteered to play with Mississippi School for the Deaf team because they only had one young man representing their school (all teams were to have a minimum of two students to compete). The two boys collaborated through the event, teaching each other what they knew. Their hard work paid off with a fourth-place finish! The Sportsmanship Award also went to them for demonstrating respect and great enthusiasm.
The remaining girls on the FSDB team worked hard during the competition. Their robot failed an initial inspection by overreaching one-quarter inch. After a few design modifications, they passed another inspection and hit the floor running! The changes made to their robot caused the autonomous code not to work in the Programming Skills match, but they hit every mark in the Driving Skills and Collaboration matches. The girls finished overall in second place!
When asked about expectations or goals the team had going into the competition, Coach Cambron said, "Just to have fun, make new friends, and do our best!"