Bartlesville Public Schools

Posted: Jan 19, 2020 12:00 AMUpdated: Jan 19, 2020 11:27 PM

Robotics Contest at Central Leads the Way to the Future

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Garrett Giles

Central Middle School played host to their 2nd Annual VEX Robotics Competition on Saturday.

Lolly Williams, the STEM teacher at CMS, said the VEX Robotics Competition at the school had a middle school and high school division this year. She said they only had a middle school division last year at Central.

More people reached out to make the tournament bigger this year. Williams (pictured right) said it was exciting and that Saturday's event was the third tournament for Central students to participate in. She said two of Central's teams took back tournament championships in their first ever tournament.

Those trophies were the first of their kind to make their way through the doors of the middle school. The history and the victory behind those trophies meant a lot to the kids according to Williams. She said Central now has five teams that compete in intense robotics and STEM.

Time and effort goes into each robot. Williams said the students have a ton of support from the Bartlesville Public Schools district, parents and local businesses like Phillips 66, who sponsored the VEX Robotics competition.

The VEX Robotics Competition, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, is the largest and fastest-growing middle school and high school robotics program globally with more than 24,000 teams from 61 countries playing in over 1,700 competitions worldwide.

28 middle school teams competed in the 2nd Annual VEX Robotics Competition at Central this year. Only 12 middle school teams competed in the inaugural year. And with the addition of the high school division in 2020, teams from Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Nowata were able to come on out and compete.

Each year, an exciting engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, build innovative robots and compete year-round.

Mrs. Williams said last year's game was defensive like King of the Hill. This year's game (pictured below) was more offensive, and Williams said they start with an engineer's notebook. She said every year the students have to have a different robot, with different codes and different mechanics.

In addition to learning valuable engineering skills, students gain life skills such as teamwork, perseverance, communication, collaboration, project management, and critical thinking. The VEX Robotics Competition prepares students to become future innovators with 95-percent of participants reporting an increased interest in STEM subject areas and pursuing STEM-related careers.

Williams said the Central STEM teams qualified for State competition a couple weeks ago. She said if they win State, they can go into nationals, and then hopefully the world competitions. When asked how they would prepare for the world stage, Mrs. Williams joked and said “a lot of prayer.” In addition to prayer, she said the continued support from families and the BPS administration will help them get there.

State competition is nothing new. Last year, Central STEM teams won Oklahoma Technology Student Association championship to advance to nationals last year. Williams said it was a blessing and that she was grateful for Keri Gardner, Central Middle School's Principal, for making it possible for them to go.

Principal Gardner said Lolly Williams always goes above and beyond to make STEM great within the Bartlesville Public Schools district. She said Williams is the driving force that makes the VEX Robotics Competition possible at Central.

Helping the kids reach their full potential and grow in STEM is what Mrs. Williams does. Principal Gardner said lots of kids want to be a part of Central's STEM program. She said Mrs. Williams has over 40 to 45 students in her Technology Student Association Club meetings every Tuesday and Thursday after school.

The VEX Robotics Competition is not designed solely for students interested in engineering. Principal Gardner said the contest provides the framework for teaching math, computer science, and life skills like teamwork and project management. She said Mrs. Williams is great at developing those life skills in any of her students.

Thad Satterfield, a representative with the petroleum company, said he manages the company's talent program. He said that Phillips 66 is really working to build the workforce of the future around some very different critical skills.

The jobs they are trying to fill now are things they did not even think about filling 10 to 15 years ago. Satterfield said as Phillips 66 looks for talent to provide energy and to improve lives, they need more students who are grounded in STEM education.

The VEX Robotics Competition at Central Middle School showed Satterfield and Phillips 66 how there is bright hope for the future. Satterfield said it shows him that the students at the middle school and high school levels are really engaged with STEM education and skills.

The folks at Phillips 66 were proud that teachers, parents and administrators did everything that they could to showcase what the students have invested so much time and effort into. Satterfield said Bartlesville and the surrounding area should be proud that their community is investing in students with their time, talent and resources.

Satterfield was a judge for the competition on Saturday. He said he got to see the students display critical skills through design, engineering and manufacturing.

There was also the team building aspect. Part of the competition shows how well students are able to collaborate together, while creating a high-functioning robot. The students have to articulate what each team member is really good at and make that work together in order for them to get the job done. Satterfield said that is what Phillips 66 looks to transfer into their company as they build for the future.

Seeing how the Bartlesville Public Schools district invests in students is very evident to Satterfield and Phillips 66. Satterfield said his own kids went through Bartlesville's schools and he has always been impressed with how the district strives to grow for their kids. He was a principal at Wayside Elementary himself in the early 2000's, and he said the district has gone from computer labs to teach students to teaching them to do machine learning, to use robotics and to work with artificial intelligence.

This innovation in the classroom is what Satterfield said the world needs more of going forward. He said Bartlesville is their innovation center and their business support center at Phillips 66. The petroleum company prides itself on how technology has changed and how it continues to change. Satterfield said the investment they are making now is an investment for all to see, and it starts with local students that make a difference.

Here was the challenge students faced on Saturday:

VEX Robotics Competition Turning Point is played on a 12’x12’ square field.

Two (2) Alliances – one (1) “red” and one (1) “blue” – composed of two (2) Teams each, compete in matches consisting of a fifteen (15) second Autonomous Period, followed by a one minute and forty-five second (1:45) Driver Controlled Period.

The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing Alliance by placing Cubes in Towers, or scoring Cubes in Goals.



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