One Wylie Junior High Robotics team is advancing to the TCEA State Competition and another is hoping to grab a wild card spot after both placed in the area competition in January.
The 8th-grade team of Eden Sauley, Esther Santee and Maddie Davis, who call themselves Team Gotham, won 1st place in their category at the Texas Computer Educator’s Association area competition in Clyde. The first place finish gives them an automatic bid to state.
The team of Anthony Zhang, Alek Poradek and Sameer Haider finished in 2nd place. Only first place is guaranteed a spot, but the state will chose a certain number of 2nd place teams as wild cards. The team will not know if they qualified as a wild card until all of the area competitions are completed statewide.
The state competition is April 30 in the Austin area.
Wylie can only send four teams to the area competition, so the competition within Wylie is fierce to see who can go. Students must participate in the Wylie Junior High Investigative Math and Science class to participate.
The students team up in groups of three or four and build a robot from a Lego Mindstorm kit. They must program the robot to perform certain tasks. The students spend many hours building, programming and practicing.
“We would work on it in class, and sometimes we would work on it before school,” Maddie said.
At competition, the robots must perform tasks, such as moving cones with a waffle ball on top of them, from one area to another. Each team gets three attempts at the challenge, and fortunately for Team Gotham, they had an almost perfect first attempt.
“Our 1st run at competition was great,” Eden said. “But our 2nd and 3rd didn’t go great.”
The team scored 600 out of 700 points in the first run, which took some pressure off the next two rounds.
“A bunch of the weight came off our shoulders because we knew we had a good score,” Esther said.
It is common for problems to occur during the competition – robots don’t always do what you expect them to do.
“We like to say that sometimes our robot has emotional issues,” Maddie said.
The girls do not get to have any contact with coach Shana Hrbacek between their runs, so it is up to them to decide how to improve on the first run or how to solve problems that occur.
“We look to see if it was the programming that messed up or if it was the placement of the robot,” Esther said. “
Alek said that fixing problems that occur is one of the biggest challenges of the competition.
“There is always something that happens,” he said. “The robot never acts the same. We don’t know why. You have to get creative.”
“If one thing fails, you kind of have to think how to get it done,” he said. “It’s all about balancing your time versus getting the task done.”
“You have to know what your programming does,” Sameer said.
Eden and Esther both went to state last year, and they are hoping that the experienced gained will help them do better this year.
“Last year, we changed up our program a lot at the last minute,” Eden said. “This year, we are going to start early instead of rushing at the end.”
They hope to place in the Top 20.
“I think we will be more prepared and focused this year,” Esther said. “I just want to do better than last year.”
Wylie also had two other teams selected to compete at the Area Competition. They were Olivia Lynch, Leighton Alford and Evan Armstrong and Kyle Lang, Katye Phillips and Daniella Lintini.