Jacksonville Middle School students compete at robotics meet

May 16—Jacksonville Middle School students, with teachers Spencer Wright and Hunter McConnell, traveled to the UT Tyler College of Business in Tyler for a robotics scrimmage Monday, May 13.

The scrimmage was part of an Academic Rodeo, according to McConnell.

"This is going to be a great challenge for our students to show what they have been working on in the Robotics CTE credited class they have been taking in eighth grade with Mr. Wright," McConnell said.

The participating students included Chineme Achinivu, Johnathan Acevedo Sanchez, Tristan Barajas, Benjamin Berry, Exadrian Cornelio, Hiram Del Rio, Conner Fanning, Mia Guillen, Sydney Harmel, Hunter Malitz, Orlando Ornelas, Jesus Otero, Zayden Paulk, Tom Reep, Jesus Rodriguez, Brandon Santos, Jackson Toch, James Traylor, Adelina Vasquez and Mason Witt.

Wright said this is the first year the middle school has offered the robotics class. He said Robotics is considered an elective, but students who take the class receive high school credit. The course is considered a portion of the CTE Engineering pathway.

Wright said knowledge of engineering design process, building robots — in the case of JMS, using Legos Spike Prime — how to code, and problem solving skills were used during the competition.

The meet consisted of five challenges.

1. Hill Climb Challenge — The robot must climb the hill and will receive points based on how high it climbs.

2. Speed Challenge — Robots complete the map from start to finish as fast as possible.

3. Nuclear Waste Cleanup Robot Retrieval — Robot needs to push a button, enter the security storage room, retrieve the waste and leave the storage room before the doors close.

4. Nuclear Waste Lift — Robot will lift various weights of nuclear waste.

5. Presentation — Students will have a quick oral presentation to talk about the choices they made for their robot and programming.

"Students must construct one robot to attempt all challenges and program the robot to successfully complete the challenges," McConnell said. "They can receive partial points depending on what part or parts of the challenge they complete."

A second portion of the competition was a VEX Robotics scrimmage. As the middle school had no VEX Robotics kits, the students would not be participating. Wright said they would observe the VEX robotics to see how they work, analyze the design of the robots and how the teams work to control the robot.

Three students commented on the meet.

"My experience here was very educational, it spiked my interest to go into engineering," said Sydney Harmel.

Tristan Barajas characterized the event as very entertaining.

"We tried our best and we did our best," Barajas said. "My teammates were very helpful."

Mia Guillen deemed it "thrilling" and focused more on the social aspect of the event.

"The pizza I had was amazing although someone drank all the Coke," Guillen said. "I enjoyed working with my friends and missing school."

Awards earned by JMS students in the Legos Robotics Competition included:

—First place — Ben Berry, Zayden Paulk and Jackson Toch

—Second place — Chineme Achinivu and Adelina Vasquez

—Third place — Tristan Barajas, Mia Guillen and Sydney Harmel

The meet was hosted by a partnership of The University of Texas at Tyler Department of Industrial Technology and the University Academy charter school.