Legacy is what the Embry-Riddle Blue and Gold VEX robotics teams are building on campus and in the local Prescott community. On November 14, the teams hosted the first ever fall collegiate Arizona VEX U competition at Embry-Riddle and invited local middle school and high school students to experience first-hand the excitement and challenge of robotics competition.
“We are excited to be offering a VEX U competition at Embry-Riddle,” said Geoffrey Winship, VEX U Club President whose job is to oversee both Embry-Riddle teams. “We’ve only been working for about two months on our designs but felt that all the Arizona collegiate teams could benefit from a November competition to test our prototypes and make us stronger in the spring competition.”
The November 14 competition was a success. Four of the eight Arizona collegiate teams participated with Embry-Riddle Blue team taking the top honors. Winship is hopeful that this is the year an Embry-Riddle team goes to the VEX Worlds Competition.
VEX Robotics competitions are sponsored by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation. Their goal is to promote STEM-based programs while connecting students, mentors, and schools in communities across the world. The program is available at the elementary, middle school, high school, and university levels.
“Nothing but Net” is the 2015-16 game. Each team builds two robots, one 15 inches square and one 24 inches square, using parts from a standardized VEX kit. Additional parts may be 3-D printed. During the competition, the two robots work in cooperation for two minutes to score more goals than their opponent on a 12-by-12 foot field. Bonus points are then given to the team that can elevate its partner robot off the ground.
“The great thing about VEX is that it’s a team effort. This year’s competition requires a great deal of programming and gear ratio and fly wheel design. We definitely have engineers on our teams, but we also have pilots, business and security and intelligence students. You don’t have to know everything because we all help and teach each other,” said Winship.
In the past four years, Embry-Riddle’s VEX team has grown to 25 members, requiring the split into two teams. A natural outcome of their passion has been outreach programs in the greater Prescott area, including weekly mentoring of teams at Mile High Middle School and Sacred Heart Grade School. Their efforts are paying off. According to Winship, recent numbers indicate that the Prescott area added more than 10 new VEX teams, bringing totals to over 40. Four years ago there were 10 teams total.
“I started VEX in the fifth grade and continued through high school. I believe it did play a part in my choosing Engineering,” said Winship. “We consider this volunteering to be an extension of our education at Embry-Riddle and a way to give back to the community we call home for eight months out of the year. It has been great to help mentor and advise these local programs.”
Plans are to grow the 2016 collegiate Arizona VEX U competition at Embry-Riddle and include elementary, middle and high school teams plus an engineering discovery day for the community.
The Blue and Gold teams will be on the field again January 30, 2016 in Tempe, AZ.
For more information on the Embry-Riddle VEX teams, contact Geoffrey Winship at email@example.com.