St. George’s students are encouraged to focus deeply on personal areas of interest while thinking broadly about the implications of their work on the world around them. One area in which 26 Upper School students live out this mission is on our robotics team – The RoboGryphs.
Led by VEX Robotics Tennessee’s 2017-18 high school teacher of the year, and physics and engineering teacher at St. George’s, Crista Smothers, our students work to design, build and operate robots in a number of competitions around the country. Currently, the Upper School team competes with five robots.
Each year, unique competition requirements laid out before the teams require innovative thinking to program and build a robot to perform agile tasks. For example, a robot might be required to flip and/or place an item onto a pole, shoot balls at flags or park on raised platforms. St. George’s students are rising to the occasion, incorporating autonomous design into their programming.
“It has been fun to watch the design iterations of two of the more experienced teams as they worked through different solutions for a claw to flip over the caps and for shooting the balls at the flags,” said Ms. Smothers. “Both of these teams, programmed by Allison Evans and Jacob Gettig, have solid autonomous programs. This is a series of steps the robots perform in the first 15 seconds of the match without the use of a controller.”
On Nov. 10, St. George’s was proud to host our fall VEX Robotics Competition tournament with 22 high school and middle school teams competing. Team 99905X – comprised of Thandie Boudreaux, Elianna Hills, Rachel Umansky and Surabhi Singh – won the Inspire Award. Team 99905A – comprised of Elizabeth Crane, Allison Evans and Kagan Sears – was one of the two Tournament Champions and won the Excellence Award, earning the team a spot at the state tournament in March, the CREATE U.S. Open Championship in April, and the VEX Night at the Museum signature event held in January at the National Air and Space Museum.
Beyond the VRC tournament, the fall has proven to be a successful season for our teams. Our students have traveled throughout the region, competing against stiff competition and bringing home top prizes at multiple events across the Southeast. Here are a few of the teams’ many accomplishments!
St. George’s Upper School robotics team is comprised of 18 males and eight females, with the number of female participants increasing in recent years. In fact, St. George’s robotics team 99905X is all female and was created through grant funding from the Google-backed Girl Powered organization, which seeks to transform the face of STEM by encouraging female students to pursue careers in STEM fields. It’s St. George’s’ goal for the RoboGryphs to one day be comprised of half male and half female students.
While some of the students participating in the robotics team have STEM career aspirations, many enjoy the collaborative nature and puzzle-solving challenge that is equally part of being a RoboGryph.
“I always tell people that, while the students are building robots, they are really learning communication and collaboration skills, and they are getting lots of experience persevering through challenges,” said Ms. Smothers. “These skills will benefit them in everything they do!”
Naturally, students gain deeper knowledge of mechanical operations or computer programming skills that would be applicable in STEM professions. But, they’ll all remember how they had to work together to troubleshoot a motor not working right during a competition, a soft social skill that’s applicable in any line of work.
In the coming weeks, the 13 Middle School Vex IQ robotics teams will hold an in-house showdown to see who will compete in January’s competition at St. George’s. This will be the first opportunity for many middle school students to demonstrate their robotics understanding in a competition setting, while the five Upper School VRC teams will compete in a local December tournament and the second SGIS tournament in February.
The success of this year’s team is another example of St. George’s gleaming record of student success in passion-driven educational activities, but this year’s success isn’t a surprise to program participants. Last year’s robotics team found similar success, winning the following awards at various competitions:
99905C – The robot team with Thandie Boudreaux, Luke Fleck, Porter Coleman, Christian Hayden won:
99905B – The robot team with Jacob Gettig, Austin Nellessen, Graham Gumbert, Sam Kuykendall won:
99905A – The robot team with Allison Evans, Elizabeth Crane, Kagan Sears won:
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