The technical institute that T wants to attend next year held it's very first Vex Robotics Competition yesterday. In previous years, Lego held a competition called Mindstorms but Vex is more geared to high school aged students. It's a learning experience disguised as a competition as the students have to build their own robots from kits and compile their own code (is that the right phrase?) to make the robots work.
T's school had four teams and there was a total of 18 teams competing. It was really neat to see how each team built their robot, what parts of the kit were used and what add-ons were purchased and used. T was responsible for writing the code and he and his partner built the robot about a week before the competition. One of his school teams built their robot in the hour between setup and starting, arriving at the institute with a fitted sheet filled with robot bits :) Their robot did surprisingly well in the competition but looked like it was assembled on the spot. T's robot didn't behave as well during the competition but was fine on the practice mat. There was no difference in the practice mat to the competition mat so I'm not sure where the problem was. Maybe something to do with the physics of pushing objects?
The competition involved pushing scoring objects (cylinders and balls) into specific places as well as picking up scoring objects and placing them in tubes of three different heights. This part lasted only two minutes. There was also a 20 second window at the beginning of each heat where the robots could demonstrate autonomic programming. The robots were randomly assigned teams (blue or red) and the teams were scored as well as the individual robots on performance. There was also a technical interview where the teams were asked about their robots and demonstrated any features.
T's team robot won the prize for best built, showing professional building styles even thought it didn't work as well as it could have. I am quite proud of his team :) T was absolutely in his element, setting up his laptop at his team station and adjusting code while his partner fiddled with the robot parts in between heats. It didn't seem to bother him too much that his robot wasn't performing well and wouldn't win the competition (his team came in 17th out of 18). He seemed pleased as peach to just be there at the institute doing something he loved :)