EAST LANSING — Around 500 of Michigan’s youngest robotic masters are coming to Michigan State University in East Lansing for the Michigan VEX Robotics State Championships, Sunday, Feb. 25.
Competitors from 48 high school and 28 middle school teams will gather in Jenison Field House during the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tournament. Opening ceremonies begin at 9:15 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.
VEX Robotics helps middle and high school students learn basic robot innovation, working together, troubleshooting, and having fun in a team setting.
“MSU is very proud to nurture these young engineers and designers,” said Drew Kim, assistant to the dean for recruitment, scholarship and K-12 outreach in the MSU College of Engineering. “The championship games are among Michigan’s biggest STEM events for students each year.”
Using the VEX Robotics Design System, students build innovative robots and then compete on a 12-foot by 12-foot playing field. In this year’s theme, “VEX In The Zone,” points are scored by moving cones and movable goals during timed contests. Two alliances, made up of two teams each, compete in qualifying matches. After qualifications, teams create three-team alliances.
Much like March Madness in college basketball, elimination rounds determine the best teams in the state. Awards are presented for design, build, create, robot skills, and judges’ choice. Top honors include Tournament Championship trophies, for the top competition winners, and the Excellence Award Winner, for the best overall team in the state.
“Teams have been qualifying at local tournaments for one of two state regional tournaments since August,” explained Bob Watson, K-12 outreach/robotics coordinator for MSU Engineering. “Teams that win at the regional tournaments then qualify for the Michigan VEX Robotics State Championships.”
High school teams will come from Bloomfield Hills, Detroit, DeWitt, Grandville, Battle Creek, Haslett, Novi, Hudsonville, and Traverse City, among others.
Middle school teams will travel from Bloomfield Hills, Clawson, Jenison, Grand Blanc, Lambertville, Hudsonville, West Bloomfield, and the Grand Rapids area.
Sixteen high school and six middle school teams will advance from Michigan’s championship to the 2018 VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville, Ky., April 25-28. About 1,500 teams are expected to compete at the world games.
Kim noted that MSU is able to host the state competition because of the many volunteers who contribute time and support, including the MSU student volunteers who help VEX participants learn the principles of engineering as they design and build their robots.
“This year, we’d especially like to thank the men and women of the MSU Air Force ROTC for their years of setting up tables, chairs, and competition fields and presenting the U.S. flag during opening ceremonies — without which our large state championship wouldn’t be possible.”
There are 371 VEX teams in Michigan, 239 in high schools and 132 in middle schools. MSU is the largest university sponsor of VEX Robotics in Michigan, supporting 15 teams around the state. Many of MSU’s teams are from schools with underrepresented student populations.
“Our country needs a continual pipeline of technical workers,” Watson added. “VEX Robotics helps these STEM students build a worthwhile network during friendly competitions.”