Robotics team swaps force for finesse

The Heights High Robotics Team working with the new Vex system (clockwise from left): Jacqueline Gold (seated), senior; Keshaun Madlock, sophomore; Jaleel Davis, freshman; unidentified adult volunteer; Emma Hodges (wearing hat), junior; James Birdsell (foreground, kneeling), sophomore.

The Cleveland Heights High School robotics team has gone from trying to destroy its challengers to trying to beat them with finesse. For the past several years, they have designed and built Battle Bots, remote-controlled robotic units that battle other robots in a bulletproof cage. Last year the team placed 2nd at the regional competition and 5th at nationals.

This year the 30-member team is using a new model, Vex Robotics, a system for designing, programming, building and operating robotic units that perform sophisticated movements.

“Think of an Erector Set on steroids,” said robotics team coach Greg Nachman. “The kits are very versatile, with more opportunities for students to program the robotic movements.”

The school fielded six teams and competed in its first Vex competition on Dec. 1 at Wooster High School. The six Heights High teams all placed between 18th and 26th in a field of 30.

“We learned so much,” said Nachman. "We are very new to this kind of competition, and we saw what we need to do to improve.”

Each match is two minutes long and is held on a 12-by-12-foot field. Robots from four teams earn points by completing tasks on the field. Two teams form an alliance and work together, but each team also accrues individual points. Teams can score points by performing tasks, such as threading a nine-inch object onto a pole, throwing a ball at a hard plastic flag to make it spin a quarter-turn, and parking on a raised platform. In a nod to Battle Bots, teams can also score points by pushing an opponent off the platforms.  (You can see a sample of Vex competition here:

The Heights High robotics team will compete in at least three more competitions this school year. “We’re excited to learn this new model of robotics competition,” said Nachman. “And we look to improve our performance in the next several competitions.”

Joy Henderson

Joy Henderson is the parent/community liaison for Heights High.

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Volume 12, Issue 1, Posted 10:25 AM, 01.01.2019