Robotics team competes at VEX World

Student duo plans to travel to Dallas this spring for a world wide robotics championship


Photo courtesy of Carson Roman

BOBOT THE ROBOT: Junior Carson Roman (left), and Senior Joseph Weis (right) will compete at Dallas for the VEX World Championship. Their team, Alpha Entity, has refined their robot over the past couple of months to prepare for each round and section they will be competing in.

Sophia Sanchez, Feature Editor

Controls in hand, senior Joseph Weiss, and junior Carson Roman place their robot down for the World VEX Robotics Competition. 

For both students, their passion for robotics was evident at a young age. However, Weiss began to experiment with design and coding as young as four years old. 

“I was really little when my interest in robots started,” Weiss said. “I just thought that robots looked cool. I would draw them a lot but I didn’t really actually get into building until I was seven. My dad owned an air conditioning business and we had a bunch of broken air conditioners lying around and I would always go and take them apart.”

Taking an interest in robotics set Roman on the path to hone in on his skills inside and outside of school. 

“During my first year of middle school, I had joined the robotics class,” Roman said. “I talked with people and I started to get into the whole design process. The main thing that’s kept me there is the people that are in the club as well. Everyone there is super into robotics, so they’re not super competitive about playing the game. They’re more interested in seeing cool robots and seeing how they can fare against other robots which are cool.”

Roman and Weiss met through the robotics club and quickly built a friendship alongside their robots. According to Weiss their skills complement one another’s and played a significant factor into the success of their robot at competition.

“There’s this one design that Joseph had come up with that genuinely I don’t think I’ll ever get over,” Roman said. “So it actually uses the tension of like, connection pieces in order to spin like, move a lever and then it uses a chain in order to hold it still. So it has down-force so it picks up discs via applying down-force but also isn’t enough to allow it to move away. Super cool. I have no clue how he thought of that. Could have been my accident. I don’t really care. It’s super cool to watch and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. I’ll probably wind up implementing it into later designs.”

According to club sponsor Mikaylah Schmuck, the students work independently as a group based on their own skills and preferences. 

The main thing that I think carried us to state was actually our autonomy during the state competition, almost no other rivaled ours.

— Carson Roman, Junior

“As a sponsor, my role is to handle the paperwork for club budget and competition registration, but I am very hands off for any robot builds,” Schmuck said. “What I find interesting about the robot that Carson and Joseph have built together is how they have worked to modify and perfect it after each competition. They truly learn from each competition what works and what doesn’t and adjust their robot based on that.”

The Vex robot competition gives contestants a game mode to code, build, or practice with the robot the team built in order to compete with other teams. There are multiple fields of robotics such as skills where the contestant plays by themselves and the field where teams play against one another to score points. The team field focuses on what was accomplished with building the robot and its skills. 

“They were both very involved in the initial design and build but now Joseph is working on code and Carson’s focus is on networking with the other teams,” Robotics teacher Kris Maniscalo said. “The evolution of their robot since the beginning of the year is really impressive. In the first competition, they weren’t able to launch any discs. Now, they not only launch them with over 80% accuracy, but are working on autonomous programming, approaching 100%.”

Going against teams from across the state can be a nerve racking experience. Despite this pressure, the team continued to pursue their goals of succeeding in competition.

“Getting to state and a height on a high school level was super important to me,” Roman said. “That was awesome. Let alone making it to the world which I’m still astonished about. We beat a team that I really idolize. They’ve always been better than us. We had every odds stacked against us and still beat them. Actually during the tournament we were known as the Black Horse after facing adversity. It was pretty cool.”

The world competition will be taking place April 25 to May 4. As the days tick by, the team continues to upgrade to their robot.

“I’ve been working on getting everything ready,” Weiss said. “I’m the only one on the team who knows how to code. I’m trying to make an autonomous thing that makes the robot pick up the disks on its own for a portion of the competition called coding skills, which is a whole method of just letting the robot do whatever it does without you touching the controller. It’s a little difficult to code all of that, especially with all the math involved.”

It was a really surreal experience even getting into the world competition, actually making it that far because I didn’t expect that.

— Joseph Weiss, Senior

According to Roman, observing and getting to know other teams during competition provides great insight for future construction and functions of robots.

“I had seen a robot design that used four wheels and a unique orientation that allowed them to strafe left and right rather than just driving forward and backward,” Roman said. “Then you’ll start thinking of ways to actually score for the game. It’s always either more or less difficult than last year, which I find really fun, because there’s always a super creative way to progress through the game. The best part is to have that revelation that this will work.”

As the students continue to approach the world competition they hope that this experience will continue to drive their passion for robotics and help them gain more experience in the industry.

“It was a really surreal experience even getting into the world competition,” Weiss said, “and actually making it that far because I didn’t expect that. It was crazy. Now I’m mostly just excited to meet people because the teams are from all around the world. I mean there’s a team from some country in Africa but they just happen to have the same team name as us and everything, which is crazy.”