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BEA enters a new battle in the robot wars

By Staff | Jan 6, 2014

The Blue Earth Area Robotics team is stepping up their game this school year and it has already been a success.

The students usually participate in one contest each season, but this year they’ve decided to participate in the VEX robotics tournament.

VEX robotics is a corporation which offers several platforms for students to learn, including robotics.

The tournament was held in Albert Lea on Dec. 14 and the students came home with a seventh place win.

“This is the first we had heard about the VEX tournament and the students wanted to give it a try,”?BEA robotics supervisor Laura Becker, says.

The robotics team usually kicks off their season after they return to school from Christmas break.

“And, typically the robots we build have more of a creative focus,”?Becker adds.

This year, they received kits for the VEX tournament at the end of September and competed in December.

Even though they’ve only done one competition each year, they felt it was time to try another, and there were enough differences in the two which gave them a unique experience.

“The robot for this competition was much smaller and focused more on the programming aspect,”?Becker explains.

The seventh-place robot, built by the BEA students, was just 45 centimeters by 45 centimeters and they could only use parts supplied by the company.

The game for the competition gave students three options for the robots to compete in. They could either push balls over a ledge to the other side of the playing field, push balls under obstacles and barriers or pick the balls up and put them into cylinders.

“There were quite a few different scoring opportunities,”?Becker says.

The BEA?team decided to design their robot with a scooping apparatus which allowed them to both carry and push the balls.

During the competition, different teams form alliances. They have to strategize within their alliance throughout the different rounds to beat the other teams.

“But, at the same time BEA had to try to score points individually, apart from their alliance,”?Becker explains.

The supervisor adds students learn not just to be independent but also how to work with others.

“The day of the tournament we find out who we will be working with and the students get time to strategize within their alliance before the competition begins,” Becker explains.

They discussed which portion of the competition they should start with and whose robots would be best in each place.

“The students had to adjust to working with a smaller playing field this time, too,”?she adds.

And, despite all the unique factors playing into the competition’s results, the BEA team came away with a seventh-place victory.

The robotics team this year has many new participants along with the returning teammates. However, only a couple of the returning robotics team members were able to compete at the VEX?tournament.

“The past students who have now been in both types of tournaments, have liked them both a lot,”?Becker says. And, the new team members who hadn’t participated in either type before, enjoyed the setup of the VEX competition, as well.

However, Becker suspects it may be the camaraderie they experience at these types of events.

“They get to meet other people who have similar interests as they do,”?she explains. “So they get to make friends with students from other schools.”

Now, with one competition already under their belts, the robotics team will move on to their next project.

They will have their kickoff event on Jan. 4 at Mankato State University, Mankato where they will receive their kits and start working on the next creation. The next tournament will be held on March 27-29.

“It was nice to have an additional competition this year,” Becker says. “Especially when this hasn’t been a year-round activity in the past.”