Teams from three Forsyth County high schools put Forsyth County on the map for world robotics championships.
Recently at the VEX Worlds competition in Louisville, Kentucky, and the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship in Houston, Texas, teams from South Forsyth, Forsyth Central and Lambert high schools competed against teams from across the U.S. and the world, including team from China, Israel, Australia and many other countries.
One team from Lambert and three from South Forsyth competed at the world competition in a competition called Starstruck, a game in which two teams of two robots, an alliance, launch 32 stars and cubes to score points.
The game begins autonomous, meaning the robots are controlled only by programming, before teams use video game-like controllers to move their robot.
Travis Hodges, VEX robotics advisor at South, said the one team was selected as part of the No. 1 alliance in the arts decision, reaching the semifinal rounds. Overall, he said it was a successful season.
“We were really strong all year long,” Hodges said. “We brought home 25 trophies this year; 13 of those were tournament champion trophies, four of those were from excellence awards that were won at various tournaments. Every single tournament that we attended, we had a t least one team in the championship and winning first place.
Joe Fuqua, Lambert’s advisor, said his team, made up of four freshmen, also had a bright future and had already gone further than any previous team from the school.
“It’s the first time Lambert ever sent a team to worlds,” he said. “We’d never sent a team to state before this year, so they were very proud of what they were able to get done.”
“They were proud of a coming into a situation where there wasn’t a huge robotics program … they were showing that it could be done.
Fuqua said the plan is to make it back to the competition in 2018.
In Houston, teams from Forsyth Central and South Forsyth high schools represented the county in Steamworks. In the game robots are designed to deliver gears to students on an “air-ship” and shooting balls into a boiler and also has an autonomous portion.
“The name of the game is Steamworks, so basically, it’s a steam-punk theme, so it’s kind of that 1800s high-tech kind of thing,” said Central advisor Jonathan Lillie.
Lillie said his team was fifth overall in the competitions’ toughest division, which scored 10 points more on average than other divisions and the first ever to actively play in the elimination rounds.
“I’d say the competition went very well,” he said. “We performed better, in my opinion, than any Forsyth County team has performed ever.”
James Chamberlain, South’s FIRST advisor, said the team was excited to compete. The team finished first in its subdivision and fifth overall out of more than 400 teams.
“It’s the first time our team ever went to worlds, so it was a pretty big honor and they were pretty excited about going,” he said. “I think overall they learned a lot from the experience and they were impressed by the sheer size of the event and the number of teams that were there.
Forsyth County vs. the world
Sending so many teams to world competitions is an example of the county’s emphasis on robotics and STEM related activities.
“I’m thrilled at what Forsyth is doing to kind of promote robotics, because these are real-world skills that these kids are getting,” Lillie said. “Most of these guys are going to go out and directly use one or more of the skills that they got from it.”
Chamberlain said partnerships, particularly local automation provider Automation Direct, which sponsors robotics teams throughout the county.
“Without them a lot of this wouldn’t be possible, especially with FIRST because it is so expensive,” he said.
In both completions, teams were largely responsible for everything for their robots from design and programing to marketing to find sponsors.
“They did everything,” Fuqua said. “It was not I built it for them and then they went out and did it. They came up with the ideas, they researched it, they practice, they troubleshoot, they compete and when they to these competitions they spend all their time running and talking to the other teams.”