Hendricks County Robotics Teams Compete at World Championships

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided

Communication. Collaboration. Critical thinking. Problem solving. These are all skills we want our children to master in life. Students engaged in robotics programs are getting a jumpstart on such skills. Jennifer Gray, a fourth-grade teacher at Brentwood Elementary, has been coaching the schools robotics team for the past six years. This year 27 fourth- and fifth-graders competed in multiple competitions.

These students, along with 110 teams from other Indiana elementary schools, participated at a state competition in March of this year.

In May, 517 elementary teams competed at the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas. Grays four Brentwood teams, along with her husbands two independent home-based teams, are the only Hendricks County teams who competed there.

robotics I never thought Id be taking all four teams to state at Lucas Oil, let alone all four teams to Worlds in Texas,” says Gray, who is grateful to their generous World Championship sponsors – Duke Energy, Hendricks Power, and Hendricks County Community Foundation.

Each team includes a teacher or parent/mentor coach.

These parents really help our teams be successful,” Gray says.

When students ask her a question, Gray poses a question back to them. If they get frustrated, she asks, What else should you do? What else should you try?”

Its really exciting when they learn something new,” she says.

In the VEX IQ Challenge, students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, build a robot using snap-together VEX IQ parts to solve an engineering challenge thats presented each year in the form of a game. Teams work together to score points in Teamwork matches, and get to show off their skills individually in driver-controlled and programming Robot Skills Challenges.

Im proud of these young students for their ability to take what theyve learned and apply it to building and programming a robot, and then going through the rigors of competing with their creation,” Gray says. The VEX IQ Challenge has truly sparked their natural curiosity about STEM subjects, which will serve them well throughout their education.”

During practices, each student has a role on their team – documenter, builder, supply manager, driver, programmer or competition manager. The team records prototype info, problems, solutions, accomplishments, scores, goals and drawings in their team notebooks. These notebooks are evaluated by judges at the competitions.

robotics These 9- and 10-year-olds get interviewed by judges from all over the world – Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Morocco, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and United Arab Emirates,” Gray says. Im super impressed by the studentscommunication skills.”

The final results from Dallas are as follows: Out of 57 teams in each division (each of their teams were in a different division), with 570-plus elementary teams total, Team A placed seventh (having made it to division finals). They also earned the Judges Award for their exemplary effort and perseverance at the event, and team accomplishments throughout the season. Team B took 24th place. Team C placed 10th (they also made it to division finals). Team E got 21st place, having just missed finals by two points.

What a great season we have had, ending with such a wonderful and memorable experience,” says Gray, who has a team of all fifth-grade girls, and has loved watching their confidence and curiosity grow over time. “Robotics really transforms these kids into problem solvers for our next generation, which makes the future so much more exciting. We talk about what kinds of jobs they can have in the STEM field in robotics. This has been a great program. Were excited to see it thrive in the future.”

To learn more about Robotics Club and camps, contact Jennifer Gray at jgray@plainfield.k12.in.us.

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