During sixth hour at St. John High School students are creating robots and code to control them. Using the VEX Robotics curriculum and design materials students have built a “basic” robot and are now engineering the robot to meet the challenges of VEX robotics “Starstruck” competition. “It is a really new experience,” said Senior Ryan Woodward. “Something I didn’t know anything about before. It is pretty fun.”

The VEX Robotics curriculum leverages the “coolness” of robotics, and the excitement of head to head competition to inspire and engage students. 

Students will walk through the design and build a mobile robot to play a sport-like game. During this process they will learn key STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) principles, and robotics concepts. At the culmination of this class, they will compete head-to-head against their peers in the classroom, or on the world stage in the VEX Robotics Competition, the largest and fastest growing international robotics competition for middle and high school students.

This modular and project-based curriculum teaches the design process in an engaging, hands-on manner to help teachers challenge, motivate, and inspire their students. By moving students through an actual engineering project, students quickly understand the relevance of what they are learning.

“Robotics is fun and is a great experience,” said sophomore Ethan Huston. “It has helped me with computer coding and programming. I love it!”

The robotics class has visited several elementary classrooms to share the robots and some basics about how the robots were built, coding, and sensor functions. The elementary students have loved interacting with the high school students and using the joystick to control the robots.

On Dec. 3rd six robotics students took two robot teams to compete at Hesston High School. This was the first tournament the students attended and they learned a lot. The tournament is a very fast-paced, competitive, yet friendly environment. Students and teachers from schools using VEX for several years helped rookie teams whenever and however needed.

“The first one [tournament] is tough,” commented senior Derek Hacker.

Amanda McCandless attended the event and commented, “The tournament was very interesting to watch, and it looked like the kids were having a blast. The day went quickly as there was always something going on. It was fun checking out all the different robot’s designs and watching what they could do. For me, it was a nice change of pace from sitting in a loud gym watching a sporting event, as even though it was highly competitive, I felt the atmosphere was very relaxed. If you have a chance to go watch one in the future, I’d highly recommend it.”

After attending the competition senior Triston Long commented, “Watching videos and building in the classroom is not enough to have a competitive robot. We needed to go the competition so we could see what other people were doing and learn from their mistakes and our own. Before we went we thought we had a good design. Once we got there we knew we had a lot of work to do. It was pretty stressful at times but we learned a lot and will be better next time.”

On Dec. 12th eight of the robotics students presented to the USD 350 Board of Education. Topics they covered included: coding, competition, re-usability of materials, trouble-shooting, initial building, re-engineering, and the future of the program at USD 350.

The class is taught by Andrea Sayler-Siefkes. Mrs. Sayler-Siefkes has been with USD 350 for 18 years.