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Students Battle Robots in National Competition

03/10/2016

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USU Eastern-Blanding RoboticsUSU Eastern-Blanding students (Left-to-Right: Lane Palmer
(at computer), Christina Morgan, Cedale Armstrong, Melinda
Talido, Eric Stash, Josh Mendoza, Ty Charlie (missing)
solve robotics problems at the VEX Robotics Competition.
The team advanced to the semi-finals before losing to the
eventual champion.

Utah State University Eastern-Blanding students recently participated in the VEX University Robotics Competition. They overcame challenging technical difficulties thanks to their excellent design and triumphed until the semi-finals, where they were defeated by a robot called ALBA (Automata Lemon Bot Alliance).

USU students squared off against nine other university teams at Arizona State University, where the competition was held. Major software issues persisted for the first three of six seeding matches, leaving the team with only one of their two needed robots on the field during those matches. Despite this, USU Eastern-Blanding was ranked fourth going into the quarterfinals — a testament to the robots they brought to the event. They also took home the design award.

The team then went on to beat their quarterfinal opponents easily, and moved on to the semi-finals. There, they met ALBA from Cave Creek, Arizona, who the USU team knew would be tough to beat. After winning the first match, it seemed likely that the USU team would win the event, but ALBA re-grouped and returned stronger than before in the second and third matches, eliminating USU from the competition. ALBA went on to win the tournament, and will be competing in the World Championship.

Lane Palmer, a student in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), said the competition was intense, and made him more excited for a future in engineering.

“It’s one thing learning concepts in the classroom, but another thing having to make quick decisions about software and movement while your robot is competing,” he said. “You have to know how to apply your knowledge, and be able to strategize.”

Dr. Jared Berrett, Assistant Professor at USU and faculty leader of Blanding’s robotics club, said the extracurricular robotics program has helped USU Eastern-Blanding students feel more passionate about pursuing careers in STEM-related fields, and has given them practical experience to do so.

“This year’s competition was very challenging,” he said. “The students encountered some pretty tough problems, and I don’t just give them answers—they decide how to move forward themselves. It pushes them and gives them the opportunity to fail, then come back with solutions.”

Berrett says he will continue to involve students in robotics, as it engages them in STEM-related education. “The skills they learned from the competition are transferable, and will help them throughout their careers,” he explained. “It’s incredible what they can achieve when they’re enjoying something so intrinsically motivating.”

For more information about USU Eastern-Blanding and its engineering programs, visit blanding.usu.edu.