Willis Hare /Conway Middle wins annual Robotics Tournament

Published 9:56 am Monday, March 19, 2018

Submitted by Molly Wallace

WELDON – On March 10, Halifax Community College (HCC) hosted the Fourth Annual Roanoke River Valley Education Consortium (RRVEC) Ultineers Robotics Tournament in the Griffin Centre.

At the end of the competition, 12 teams took home 13 trophies. Northampton’s Willis Hare Elementary and Conway Middle Schools combined team, the “Roboticians,” won the overall Champion Award for the competition.

“Our students, along with the coaches, learned so much this season and can’t wait to get started again next year” said Grace Smith, coach of the Roboticians. “ Seeing children so excited about learning is quite an amazing experience. This was one of the most exciting days of my teaching career.”

This year’s tournament was the largest to date, according to Joe Kronner, co-founder of Must Innov8, Inc., the organization behind the event. Middle school students from five counties – Bertie, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton and Warren – competed for the final prize. With more than 75 volunteers, including many HCC faculty and staff, the event was a tremendous success.

“Having the opportunity to host this year’s event was quite an exciting honor,” said Dr. Michael Elam, president of HCC. “The students who came, and their coaches, were all so enthusiastic and excited to be participating. In addition, the students’ creativity and innovative minds were certainly on display throughout the day.”

The students competing planned and practiced for months. Each team was given a robot “brain” and over 1,000 Lego pieces to use in designing and building a custom robot that can perform complex tasks. Once it was designed, students used special “drag and drop” software to program the robot.

Each team brought their designed robots for judging during the morning portion of the competition. Teams were judged based on their design, innovation, teamwork, strategy, and many other factors. Students moved through multiple rooms, presenting their designs to more than five different judges. The participants learned about not only design and innovation, but also how to present their ideas with passion.

“As I watched the teams move through the morning and prepare their judging presentations, their ideas and presentations were very impressive,” said Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter, superintendent of Northampton County Schools. “I was delighted to see how focused they were and how much fun they were having while dealing with some stressful challenges.”

To kick off the afternoon “table challenge,” in which students would use their robots to complete various table projects, a local sponsor ensured each participant felt important. Tequila Sunrise, a local audio visual company, donated fog machines and strobe lights that were placed at the entrance to the main auditorium. Each team was introduced individually, running through the lights and the smoke to give “high fives” to every volunteer who lined up to congratulate them, stretching all the way across the front of the auditorium.

“The tournament was amazing,” said Dr. Eric Cunningham, superintendent of Halifax County Schools. “The work these students have displayed throughout the day impressed the judges and referees, and has made us all very proud.”

Each table competition lasted two-and-one-half minutes, providing students the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of their designs.

“To see students so excited to learn, and having so much while doing so, was a tremendous experience,” said Elam. “We are all looking forward to next year, knowing that the participants will be equally as impressive. The coaches of each of these teams are truly to be commended for their commitment to this process, and to their ability to help students see their true potential.”