Well-oiled machine: Craig elementary students take state honors, prep for next level of robotics competition | CraigDailyPress.com

Well-oiled machine: Craig elementary students take state honors, prep for next level of robotics competition

Andy Bockelman
For Craig Press
VEX IQ Robotics state results

Amaze Award, Robot Skills Champion Award: Triple Threat — Curtis Kuberry, Yahir Duarte (Ridgeview)

3rd place: Red Iron — Troy Daigneau, Jax Nelson, Ryun Pressgrove (Ridgeview)

5th place: Brainiacs — Avenly Lowe, Kolby Smith, Diego Garcia, Izabella Bergstrom (Sandrock)

7th place (tie): Shark Hunters — Mel Chamberlain, Logan Miller, Nate Stehle (Ridgeview);

Scorpions — Parx Nelson, Andrew Lee Johnson (Ridgeview)

In the past year, technology has been more important than ever to keep people connected, and as younger generations keep pushing forward with advancements, Craig learners are no exception.

As part of the VEX IQ Robotics Colorado state competition, Ridgeview and Sandrock Elementary School teams showed their skills Saturday in the field, making a big impression.

Ridgeview’s Triple Threat earned the Amaze Award, an award for the most consistently high scoring and competitive robot, as well as the Robot Skills Champion Award, which went to the team with highest combined score for top programming and top driving skills challenge in terms of robot performance.

The event is through Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, which “seeks to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on sustainable and affordable curriculum-based robotics engineering programs across the U.S. and internationally,” according to the VEX IQ website.

The Saturday competition featured local teams get their robot to work on the playing field within the Ridgeview gym. The space resembles a chessboard complete with plastic tokens called risers able to be lifted and shifted by teams’ mechanical cohorts via remote control.

The Triple Threat team — so named because it originally had three members last year — included Ridgeview fifth-graders Curtis Kuberry and Yahir Duarte.

Ridgeview Elementary School robotics teams Red Iron, Scorpions and Triple Threat gather with their machinery. (Andy Bockelman / For Craig Press)

With extra points offered for matching multiple risers by color, Curtis noted the group did better each round.

“In our first round, we had 108, then in the second round we got 140, and in our final round, we were able to get 141,” he said. “We got two stacks of three, then the row on the teal side and the purple side.”

The duo took turns operating the robot for the first two rounds before both handling it in the final.

“It was really nice driving and everything,” Duarte said.

While things went smoothly for most part, the tricky thing was the preparation, Curtis said.

“We programmed some stuff, but then it bugged out and the code didn’t work as well as we were hoping,” he said.

As part of their award wins, Triple Threat earned a spot at the world championships in May, as did the group Red Iron with a third-place finish. The group features Troy Daigneau, Jax Nelson, Ryun Pressgrove.

Pressgrove mostly handled the coding part of the effort while letting his teammates drive the robot in competition. While happy with the team’s performance, he later wondered aloud where it could have gone better.

“My high score was seven points in coding,” Pressgrove said. “I don’t know if it was a coding glitch or just since I had to change things when I took out the shaft and moved the motor and changed it.”

Ridgeview fourth-graders Andrew Lee Johnson and Parx Nelson made up the Scorpions.

The pair both worked on coding for their robot, which they agreed was more difficult than actually driving it.

“It’s surprising on the code just how high those numbers go,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “Just to turn a few centimeters is at least in the 90s.”

Among the five local teams were also Ridgeview’s Shark Hunters (Mel Chamberlain, Logan Miller, Nate Stehle), who tied for seventh with the Scorpions, and Sandrock’s Brainiacs (Avenly Lowe, Kolby Smith, Diego Garcia, Izabella Bergstrom), who placed fifth for the day.

Sandrock has been participating in robotics for the past three years, while this is Ridgeview’s second year.

Ridgeview had also hosted a live event in 2020, shortly before the COVID pandemic struck, and while tournaments this year have fewer numbers as far as crowds, there is a silver lining.

“We’ve gotten to do more tournaments this year than we ever have since they’re all remote,” said Ridgeview teacher and coach Rhonda Counts. “Last year, we only did a couple, three at most.”

Remote competition allows judges to view teams’ work via teleconference, and Counts said that has opened up the potential for connectivity outside the Western Slope.

Sandrock Elementary School's Brainiacs work as a team as part of VEX IQ's Saturday robotics event. (Andy Bockelman / For C

“We’ve competed with teams from Russia, West Virginia and Texas, teams from all over,” she said. “We’ve competed with a lot of middle-schoolers too, which really raised the bar for these guys.”

Counts added that significant financial support from Tri-State Generation & Transmission has also made the program easier.

Ty Kuberry has been overseeing Sandrock students in the program for the past three years, and besides the math, science, and engineering skills they learn through robotics, there are other elements at play.

“They learn teamwork and not giving up, since they have to constantly modify the robot. It takes a lot of perseverance and problem-solving,” he said.

Ridgeview teacher Rebecca Kuberry also oversees robotics students and was thrilled to be able to host an event with people present, even if only a handful of folks.

“We’re so excited to be able to have parents here today, because most of the year we’ve just been doing it through Facebook Live,” she said. “So glad they can be here today.”

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