On March 1–3, 2019, the FSDB Robotics Club traveled to North Carolina to compete in the First NRSC & VEX Deaf and Hard of Hearing Robotics Regional Tournament. There were 12 schools with 18 teams competing. Nothing less than an entrance to VEX Worlds Championship in Louisville, KY was at stake! The NRSC (NTID Regional STEM Center) sponsored all travel and tournament expenses for the teams and the host school. Besides the FSDB team, the state of Florida had a second DHH robotics team from Broward County Public Schools, who also entered the tournament.
The robotics tournament was a rollercoaster ride from the start. When the FSDB team arrived, the leaderboard which projected the team rankings was not functioning correctly. Their first game ended in a tie, and they won their second game. Since the leaderboard was not working, they were advised to download the app to view competition rankings. While downloading the app, the team competed in their third game and won again! When the app finished downloading, the team was thrilled to see that they were in the first place! This was the case for several rounds, much to their excitement. There were a total of 32 qualifying matches before the tournament. FSDB won in the quarterfinals but unfortunately lost in the semifinals.
FSDB Robotics Coach Monica Griffey explained that the school team had relatively less experience than the winning teams. All of the North Carolina teams had four years of working on similar robotics challenges, while this was the first year for FSDB.
Each team had three positions–programmer, driver (remote control), and mechanic/builder. Chris Weber, the student programmer, was shocked by the sheer number of people who participated in the event. He said the most challenging part was getting their robot to work after the program went bust and it wouldn’t move! They painstakingly reprogrammed it from scratch.
Jacob Ellis, the team’s driver, cited his favorite moments from the competition—when their much smaller robot managed to fend off an opponent’s larger and more elaborate robot while climbing a set of stairs.
Ellis explained, “I had to keep him off, he tried to push me, but I kept on.” Ellis liked being team driver, and enthused, “it was exciting during matches.”
Logan Helmer, the builder (mechanic) was surprised and delighted when his whole family came to watch the tournament, as some of his family lives in North Carolina. Helmer was very proud that the FSDB team won the BUILD award at the competition. In the end, it was a North Carolina Girl Power team that won the tournament and trip to Louisville, KY. Griffey and her robotics team wish them the best of luck at the upcoming 2019 VEX Worlds!