Boys & Girls Club of Menasha VEX Robotics
By: Ceev Sue Xiong, STEM/Education & Career Development Coordinator
The Boys & Girls Club of Menasha VEX Robotics team consists of a total six members from ages 10 to 11 years old who competed in VEX Robotics at the middle school level. This year, we had five girls and one boy who were mentored by three dedicated Miller Electric volunteers.
At such a young age, compared to the other middle school teams, the Club members faced challenges such as teamwork, communication, focus, and delegating their work. Despite these challenges, the mentors and I were very proud of how the team performed during the Thursday league nights held at UW Fox Valley Platteville Engineering Building.
In February, we competed at the VEX Robotics Tournament at Xavier High School where the team ultimately faced defeat and were not selected as an ally or teammate to compete in the quarter-final rounds. The team members broke down emotionally, as their dream of continuing to compete in VEX Robotics for the 2017-2018 year seemed to come to a sudden end. This would prove untrue a few weeks later when the mentors announced that we were indeed selected to compete at the state level at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE).
The State Competition was held on Sunday, March 4th, 2018. It was a long day, and a suspenseful story you would find in a movie. Our team was ranked 21st out of 24 teams, designated underdogs and younger than all the other competitors. We were picked in the second round, chosen by the fifth ranking team during the alliance selection. We began the competition by defeating the fourth ranked team, followed by upsetting first ranked team, and finally defeated the third ranked team to ultimately become one of the three teams to be called State Champions. Our team also received the coveted Judge’s Award, an honor bestowed on teams deserving of special recognition for exemplary effort, perseverance, and team accomplishments throughout the entire season. As a result from winning state, we were invited to compete at VEX World Competition in Louisville, Kentucky.
This competition lasted four days, from Wednesday, April 25th to Saturday, April 28th. This trip never would have happened without the strong support from Miller Electric. They sponsored the trip and allowed the members to meet and work as a team with students like themselves from all over the world (i.e. Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Thailand, Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Bahrain, Russia, Macau, South Korea, Singapore, and dozens of more teams from around the world). Additionally, their parents were personally there to see them in action in building, programming, operating their robot, and meeting other teams.
From this experience, the members could not stop themselves from asking me when they will be able to do VEX Robotics again. Members have even asked me if one of their friends can join next year, too! Some quotes from the members from this experience was “This is a once in a lifetime experience,” “I want to do this next year,” and “I got to meet people from China.”
The overall experience of VEX Robotics not only inspired the all Club members in the STEM world, but it also how changed a very specific member from the team. The member’s dad thanked the Club and Miller Electric for supporting this program, because without it that member would have continued to have behavioral issues. At the Club, the member’s behavior was like a “ticking time bomb,” because we never knew when the member was going to blow up. It wasn’t until we decided to try this program out, that we later found out that the member was able to focus their energy, creativity, and thought process with building and programming in VEX Robotics. I spoke with the member’s parents and they said they have bought the member VEX Robotics parts so that their child can continue to explore more and try new things while at home as well.