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Southern Miss hosts Robotics State Championship

Photo Courtesy of The University of Southern Mississippi

Talented young innovators from all corners of the state demonstrated their creative engineering and coding prowess during the 2018 Mississippi VEX Robotics State Championship held March 2-3 at The University of Southern Mississippi.

A total of 108 teams, comprised of almost 700 competitors, took part in the event. Students in grades 2-12 competed for state titles. Twenty-two teams will now advance to the 2018 VEX World Championship to be held next month in Louisville, Ky.

“VEX Robotics is able to combine STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education with a fun, competitive environment that really piques the interest of the students. Their performance in competition shows a higher level of applied knowledge that really engages them and takes them to the next level,” said event coordinator Jennifer Richardson.

Photo Courtesy of The University of Southern Mississippi

Approximately 50 USM student volunteers assisted in the state tournament held at the Payne Center on the University’s Hattiesburg campus. University President Rodney D. Bennett was on hand to welcome the teams as part of the opening ceremony with USM mascot Seymour and the USM Drum Core all energizing the crowd.

“As a public research institution, The University of Southern Mississippi is committed to growing our next generation of creative thinkers,” said Bennett. “We were delighted to host nearly 700 talented young innovators from across the state right here in Hattiesburg for the Mississippi VEX Robotics State Championship. Their excitement was contagious, and I look forward to learning about their future success as they develop ‘big ideas’ that could improve the quality of life for our communities.”

Schools/teams that qualified for the upcoming World championship included the following:

VEX Robotics Competition High School Division

  • Team Rush Hour, Ridgeland High School (Excellence Award)
  • Team STEAM, St. Martin High School (Tournament Champions)
  • Team Hancock, Hancock High School (Tournament Champions)
  • Team Steel Pursuit, Madison Career and Technical Center (Tournament Champions)
  • Team STEAM B, St. Martin High School (Design Award)

VRC Middle School Division

  • Team The Kerbals, Bayou View Middle School Robotics (Excellence Award)
  • Team Fakies, Bayou View Middle School (Tournament Champions)
  • Team Blue’s Pack, Bayou View Middle School (Tournament Champions)
  • Team Richton Robotics, Richton High School

VEX IQ Middle School Division

  • Team Hancock, Hancock Middle School (Design Award)
  • Team Richton Robotics, Richton School District (Excellence Award)
  • Team Richton Robotics, Richton School District (Teamwork Champion Award)
  • Team Hancock, Hancock Middle School (Teamwork Champion Award)
  • Team MavBots, Germantown Middle School (STEM Research Project Award)

VEX IQ Elementary School Division

  • Team BEARbots, Oak Grove Lower Elementary-Girl Powered (Design Award)
  • Team AquaBots, AquaBots (Excellence Award)
  • Team TwinBot, Oak Grove Robotics Ind. (Teamwork Champion Award)
  • Team Scholar Bots, Oak Grove Lower Elementary (Teamwork Champion Award)
  • Team RoboNISMO Rogue Squad, NNA-Canton RoboNISMO (Teamwork 2nd Place Award)
  • Team Astrobot, Oak Grove Robotics Ind. (Teamwork 2nd Place Award)
  • Team Twinbot, Oak Grove Robotics Ind. (Robot Skills Champion Award)
  • Team Vexecutors, New Hope Elementary School (STEM Research Project Award)

“It felt like a huge family of future scientists from across the state all gathered to share their creations,” said Dr. Gordon Cannon, Vice President for Research at USM. “This competition dovetails beautifully with the new engineering programs at USM and we hope some of the competitors decide to choose Southern Miss for their college training.”

Photo Courtesy of The University of Southern Mississippi

The Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation seeks to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on, sustainable and affordable curriculum-based robotics engineering programs. To that end, USM will award two, $2,000 scholarships to incoming freshman students admissible for the fall semester at USM.

VEX Robotics is a leading provider of educational and competitive robotics products to schools, universities and robotics teams around the world. The group’s VEX IQ and VEX EDR product lines span all levels of education with accessible, scalable, and affordable technology.

“It was an absolute joy watching teachers’ hopeful gazes and encouraging hugs; proud parents taking photos; student teams congratulating each other win-or-lose. This is the good stuff we educators thrive on. We can’t wait to have them back next year,” added Dr. Julie Cwikla, Director of Creativity & Innovation in STEM at USM.

Alex Hillhouse, a seventh grade student at Germantown middle school, attended the competition with his team, the “Mechanical Mavs”.

The team built the robot with a set of instructions as their only guide.

“It was our first year and we decided to build a Clawbot, the first robot that any humans basically built,” said Alex. “It lifts up a cone and drops it on another mobile goal.”

After placing in third place at the semi-finals, they will now prepare for the nationals competition.

“We’ve learned a lot from that competition so we are modifying the robot and making it a lot better for nationals,” said Alex.

He said it has been a good year, and he can’t wait for next year.

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