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Ola HS robotics team competes in California


By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  Ola High School’s VEX Robotics team, a group made up of 11 ninth through twelfth grade students, recently competed in the Robotics World Championships held in Anaheim, CA, where they had the opportunity to show off their technology skills, as well as meet college recruiters and officials form NASA.

Members of the 2012-13 VEX team at the Robotics World Championship included Chris Blount, Jalen Cornell, Will Crawford, Hunter Crigler, Zac Gilmer, Ryan Law, Casey Loftin, Andrew Sarsany and Brannon Thompson.

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  According to Christie Schmitt, engineering and technology teacher and advisor, the team had a great showing out of more than 700 teams, and the competition, which pulled from 24 counties, featured more than 15,000 student participants, educators, mentors, industry leaders and community members who came together for a common interest in technology and to go head to head with their custom-built and programmed robots.

  The VEX Robotics Competition was the finale to a successful year for these students, who participated in various competition throughout the year.

  According to Schmitt, this year was the first year that the school had a robotics team, so their success is a true testament to their hard work and dedication. She said students met at least twice a week, and during the peak competition months of January and February, students were often meeting five or six times a week, sometimes late into the evening. She said that during the course of the year, students worked through the engineering design process and kept an engineering notebook as they designed and refined their robot to solve the current years VEX challenge, Sack Attack.

  During the 2012-13 school year, Ola’s team competed in seven competitions in Georgia and earned several awards, including Rookie of the Year, two Design Awards, the Judges’ Award, Tournament Champions and the Excellence Award.  It was the Excellence Award that qualified Ola’s students to be one of the teams invited to attend the VEX World Championship.  The award is the highest honor in the VEX Robotics Competition and is given to a team that exemplifies excellence in building a well rounded VEX Robotics Program.

  She said the accomplishments of the Ola High School team are outstanding for any team, especially a team in their first year. The students have already started designing their robots for next year’s competition and will expand their efforts to two robots as they move into next season.

  Parent Michelle Gilmer, whose son Zac is a freshmen on the team, accompanied the Ola team to California and said it was an incredible experience for the students. In addition to the opportunity of meeting top robotics experts from around the world, the students had a chance to meet and network with peers who share their same interest in technology. She said the students got to broaden their horizons in several ways and said Schmitt is a big part of why the team has been so successful.

  “She’s a great teacher and very dedicated,” said Gilmer. “And although the technology is really incredible, the students also had to polish their social skills and be able to explain their project to other teams and officials.” 

  Although it’s been a busy season for Schmitt, she said she has a passion for robotics and technology and loves to pass that on to her students.

  “It’s worth seeing how exciting it is for the kids and it’s really about learning,” she said.

  She said although the current team is made up male students, she expects to see some girls on the team next year.

  “We had an open house event for eighth grade students and know that several girls are interested, so I’m looking forward to that as well.”



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