Veazie Middle Schoolers Exceed Expectations in Robotics Competition 

Some of the Middle School Students at the Veazie Community School spent the weekend at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell matching wits with other students in “BotBall”, a competition featuring engineering and programming of robots to complete tasks and earn points.They learned more than just how to write programming to move robots around obstacles on a game board.”It’s really something I wanted to challenge them with,” said Middle School Science Teacher Lauree Gott. “We do a lot of engineering in class but it’s kind of different when you have the robotics piece along with it. And it’s a perfect time of year it’s between sports seasons, so everybody can be included. It fills that gap for after school time and allows kids that opportunity to do something that involves their brains.”In January they were given the task and the specifics of the contest. So they mapped it out on the hallway floor and then went to work building and programming the robots.”We had to, on the computer, write how many seconds we’re going to have the robots wait, how far the distance they have to travel, what they are going to do,” said 8th grader Samantha Round.This was their first year in the competition, and they were the only school from Maine. Being a group of 22 middle schoolers going against high school kids they didn’t have very high expectations according to 8th Grader Harrison Dieuveuil. “We expected to get knocked out in the first two rounds, we thought our design was going to be way not near good enough to win or anything or even get close but we did a lot better than we thought.”Better than anyone thought. They lost to the eventual champions on a tie breaker in the semi-final round, good for 4th place and valuable learning experience said Gott. “What they got out of it was very different than what I had anticipated. Originally I just was hoping I would get some kids, that would, a few kids that might be interested in writing some computer code and a lot of kids who wanted to do some engineering and figure out, problem solve, build a robot and then kind of see where it went from there.””Just because you might now have all the advantages that you can do a good job with it and just have a high confidence level,” said 8th Grader Ben Vankirk.The kids also won the Keep It Simple award for their design and programming.They plan to compete again next year and will learn their new assignment in January.