Eleventh-grader VEX Robotics teams 212B and 212E are making headway in the robotics world as they succeed in VEX Robotics competitions. Eleventh-graders William Giraldo, Julia Giffard and Benjamin Hostetler comprise the 212E team who won earlier this year while eleventh-graders Alex Lindsay, Joshua Perna and Matthew Vaccaro are the 212B team who succeeded this month. Having participated at the local level, the teams are preparing for the state-level competition.
The teams first began working together this school year after choosing one another as partners in their Robotics Essentials class at Pine View. The 212B team felt a connection through their innovation of ideas. “What makes our team stand out is our ability to problem-solve creatively,” Vaccaro said.
As part of the class’s curriculum, Robotics teacher Andrew Wormington has his students participate in varying local events that involve the VEX Robotics systems. The 212E team first competed at the Booker Bash Vex Robotics competition at Booker High School Dec. 9. Serving as a qualifying event for state championships, they participated in the Booker Bash Skills Challenge. These tests or challenges required them to program a bot to perform activities on it own, such as scoring points, as well as having teammates manually control it. Hostetler is the driver of the 212E team and practices often after school.
The next major competition took place Dec. 16 in Bradenton at the fourth annual VEX VRC (In the Zone) Qualifier. This competition gave schools the opportunity to qualify for the Florida state competition. Known as the “212E πTHΦηs”, they won the Excellence Award and Design Award for their robot. The Excellence Award recognized their overall performance as competitors while the Design Award relates to the quality of their engineering notebook.
“We keep a daily log of our progress,” Giffard said. This includes, “decision-making, matrices, test results.”
Coming after school for one or two hours a day, the different team members are dedicated to their craft. They hope to make it far this year in upcoming competitions. More recently, the Pine View Robotics classes have participated in local events such as the “Clash at the Creek” Jan. 13 at Heron Creek Middle School. They also attended the “Pirate Invasion @ The River” Jan. 20 in Bradenton which leads into the state competition. Here, the second Pine View Team composed of eleventh-graders Alex Lindsay, Joshua Perna and Matthew Vaccaro qualified for states as tournament championships. They currently sit at thirty-eighth place in the world for their skills score.
“Yesterday was just the beginning of the 212B legacy,” Vaccaro said. “That was the third time we had been to finals, but the first time we took the win. We plan on excelling at states.”
The state competition is the next goal for both teams. Being the only two Pine View teams to qualify, they will attend the Florida State High School Vex Robotics Competition Feb. 17 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.“Right now we are improving our skills tests to also qualify Worlds,” Giraldo said. The VEX Robotics World Championship for high schoolers in March is the ultimate test after good qualifications at the state competition.
On the school’s success at this level, “Pine View teams in the past have, but we have not,” Giffard said. One Pine View team last made it in the 2016 competition but did not place. But both groups hope to break that spell.
“We have worked day and night to perfect this robot and in the end the hard work will pay off and we will come out on top,” Perna said about his team and bot’s capability for championships.
While the awards are a part of their success, the team sees their current curriculum as a learning experience for the future. Giffard hopes to major in Mechanical Engineering and Physics and Hostetler holds an interest in computer science. Giraldo and Vaccaro are currently enjoying their time with the robotics program and see it as more of hobby.
“I like building and programming the robot in the time before the competition more than actually competing probably,” Giraldo said.
The future is bright for these competitors as the state championship inches closer and closer. “We have seen incredible improvement over the past two years and our expectations are even higher for next year,” Vaccaro said.