Robotics Team Heads to State Meet


Team 1 members: Nathan Broman, Alex Holt, Risa Fines, Jennifer Lee, Kamso Onyemeh, Joel Kissela, and Levi Posch; Team 2 members: Alexis Akre, 8th grader Martin Nelson, Jeremiah Weber, Oliver Hennen, Ben Jolkovsky, Ethan DeWitt, and Sichi Onyemeh

On Friday, February 3rd and Saturday, February 4th, the Saint John’s Prep VEX Robotics Team will compete at the state meet at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. This is the first year that SJP has fielded a robotics team, but the team has had remarkable success this season.

At the first meet at Apollo on December 3rd, the team members surprised even themselves when they came away with a second place finish, falling only to Sartell’s very strong team, the BeatBotz. Finishing in the top two meant that the SJP team qualified for the state meet. The victory motivated the team members to make a number of improvements to their robot, including installing faster gears and altering the code to reduce the energy consumption of the robot’s claw.

SJP returned to action on December 17th, and found themselves in second place behind Sartell going into the finals. The team’s improvements to their robot paid off, however, allowing SJP to clinch the final victory in the best-two-out-of-three challenge. The two matches that Sartell lost to SJP were Sartell’s first defeats of the season. To top off the day’s successes, SJP’s Team 2 also qualified for state as a member of Sartell’s 2nd place alliance team.

In a typical VEX robotics match, randomly assigned pairs of robots work together to pick up large cubes and plastic stars and throw them over a fence into their opponents’ side of the arena. Matches begin with a 15-second, pre-programmed “autonomous period,” followed by a minute and 45 seconds of driver-controlled movement. After competing in about six matches throughout the day, teams that make it into the finals select two other teams to form a three-team alliance. This means that scouting, strategy, and doing deals with other teams is an important part of the competition.

The SJP team heads into the state meet with hopes of possibly qualifying for the VEX World Championship, to be held in April in Louisville, Kentucky. Six teams will qualify from the state finals out of a field of 61 teams, so with two teams attending the state meet, Robotics Team Coach Glenn Holt puts SJP’s chances of qualifying at about 20% — or maybe 25%, considering that they are an above-average team. Junior Kamso Onyemeh will be the robot’s driver at state. Meanwhile, the team continues to make improvements to their robot, including, according to senior Nathan Broman, removing two unnecessary screws.

Just out of the limelight, the team’s future stars – the middle schoolers – have been working with Mr. Larson to program a 3D printer as well as Arduino robots. They will graduate to working with VEX robots this spring.

Please wish Teams 1 and 2 luck and come cheer them on this Friday and Saturday at the River’s Edge Convention Center!