Erie High Robotics Competes in Vex Tournaments


Photo from Erie Robotics Twitter Page

Hannah Osmann, Co-Editor in Chief

The sound of small mechanical machines floats in the air as students ranging from grade school to  high school work behind the scenes so that their robot may complete the given task. This atmosphere is normal for Vex Robotics competitions, one of which Erie High School students participated in on the 29th of January. 


Vex Robotics tournaments have been a way for students, in groups, to create robots to complete certain tasks. While tournaments are a way for competitors to showcase their skills and knowledge, according to those who participate, it often also involves working with other teams. “Every time I have been to a robotics tournament, there’s always a sense of ‘we’re here to help each other and bounce off ideas and show each other how to do things.’” Chris Schmitz, the Erie High School instructor says. 


This is also impacted by how the tournament functions, while many sports function in a way which is one team against another, Vex is different. “You’re paired up with a random alliance partner, so another team, and then you compete for two and a half minutes against another alliance to score the most points.” Schmitz explains, “but then there’s also the driver skills and autonomous skills challenges, which are just: put your robot on the field and you have a minute and a half to show what you can do.”


For many groups including multiple groups from Erie High School, this tournament takes months to prepare for. “They release the new game [or task] at the World Championship in May every year,” Jordyn Detro, a robotics student and competitor says. “We’ve just been trying to find a good design since then.” 


For many teams trying to find a new design is a process of trial and error. For one of the Erie High School teams they found their error in a competition they competed in in December of 2021. “After our first tournament, our teams have worked very hard to improve the robots from the opportunities they saw there when we competed in December,” Schmitz says. 


One Erie high school team, which practiced the first block every B day, named “I Really Don’t Care,” competed in the tournament held at Roosevelt High School on January 29th. There they won their first two games, but lost later in the competitions that day. 


Vex Tournaments also go beyond the competition at a high school level, the tournament is also an opportunity for kids of a wide variety of age groups. “There’s an elementary level of this competition, middle school, and high school.” Parker Driscoll, a robotics competitor says. Later he adds, “in the state of the game, it’s mostly just ever high schoolers at tournaments. We’re going to see some middle schoolers at West View Middle School… and they’re really good.” 


Erie High School is scheduled to host on February fifth, and between the Saturday of the 29th of January and the Saturday of the fifth of February, Erie High robotics have been working hard to improve their robots. Sean- Patrick Schmitz, a sophomore on the team says, “We’ve been trying to work extremely hard…We’ve taken time for reflection, this week has just been all about practice and development.”  


Even more so than wanting to win tournaments, and improve on their robotics skills, students like S. Schmitz participate in Vex competitions because it has improved their lives. S. Schmitz reflects, “It’s actually changed my life, like it’s a real world application for designing and experimenting and all that, and working in a team environment.”