Celebrations are breaking out in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, and Taichung, Taiwan. There is joy in Istanbul, Tokyo and County Cork, Ireland. And excitement abounds in Yukon, Oklahoma.
All these cities share a common thread of having one of nearly 600 qualifying teams for the VEX Robotics World Championships, April 24-27 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Canadian Valley Technology Center’s five-person team won the VEX Robotics Oklahoma state championship last week for the second straight year and earned a return trip to the invitation-only world competition.
This marks the fourth appearance for CV Tech’s robotics team, which is comprised of high school students who are enrolled in the school’s pre-engineering program at the Dr. Earl Cowan Campus, near Yukon.
Team members Josiah Dadulo, Trevor Linton and Brent Jezioro are seniors at Yukon High School. Joshua Rader is a senior at Mustang. Kole Owen is an El Reno High School senior and is the lone returnee from last year’s VEX Robotics world-qualifying team also known as “Red Dirt Robotics.”
“All my other friends do football, basketball and baseball,” Owen said. “I was never really into sports. My sophomore year when I did a tour here, I noticed they were playing Starstruck (a robotics competition game). A guy asked me if I wanted to borrow the controller to steer the robot, and I was hooked.”
Owen and his four teammates will converge upon the Kentucky Expo Center, along with teams from Sammamish, Washington, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and South Korea.
“You see so much diversity at worlds,” he said. “There are a lot of different cultured groups. You meet so many people, and it’s so much fun. I got to be friends with people last year from England and got to know people from China. I am all about meeting new people.”
Owen said his dream job is to work for a corporate giant, such as Google, Amazon or Apple. He wants to be the head of a computer department.
For now, he will settle for a bit higher finish next month in Louisville.
“My parents have been to all my competitions,” Owen said. “When we won (state), my mom was so happy. My dad ran up and grabbed me so hard I thought he was going to choke me. He’s 6-foot-8, and he understands that this is my ‘sport.’”
At CV Tech, Owen’s course load is Project Lead the Way curriculum that resembles alphabet soup – classes like Advanced Placement Calculus BC, Digital Electronics, Engineering Design and Development and AP Physics C: Mechanics/Electricity and Magnetism.
VEX Robotics is the fastest growing robotics program globally with more than 1 million students comprising some 20,000 teams and representing over 50 nations. Each year, an engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from teachers and mentors, build the competition robots. Each robot is unique and in its resting position cannot be larger than 18 inches wide or tall.
The object of this year’s game, “Turning Point” is to maneuver a robot by remote control to flip scoring caps over, toggle flags and park their robots on one of three platforms at the end of the game within a 12-foot square playing field.
State qualifying tournaments are held throughout the school year. Winners of the state competition advance to the World Championships.
Last year, Red Dirt Robotics worked its way to the division Round of 16 in Louisville.
Competitions require alliances in which two teams square off against two other teams. CV Tech’s team was paired with a team from Henderson, Nevada, but lost its elimination match against teams from Sheffield, Ohio, and Beijing, China.
CV Tech’s pre-engineering students have competed in VEX Robotics tournaments for the past seven years and have collected a number of honors, including VEX Robotics World Championship appearances in 2014, 2015, 2018 and now 2019.