Kaysville • Not to be fooled by the team name “Durpy Drooling Zebra’s,” teacher Dane Leifson declared the students in his after-school club are not robot nerds.
“They are well-rounded” he said. They have a sense of humor too. When one group ignored the deadline for choosing their team name, other members of the club chose their name for them.
Davis High School Robotics club’s four teams — the Water Buffalo, Jedi Penguins, Starfox and Durpy Drooling Zebra’s — joined 696 other teams in the April 17-20 VEX Robotic Competition World Championship in Anaheim, Calif. It was the second year engineering and drafting teacher Leifson took his Robotic Club to the world championship competition.
The competition is presented by the Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation. More than 7,300 teams worldwide qualified to compete in the four different categories with a total of 15,000 students from 24 countries participating. The competitions included: VEX IQ Challenge World Championship (ages 8-14), VRC Middle School World Championship (ages 11-14), VRC High School World Championship (ages 15-18) and the VEX U (ages 18+).
The VEX competition gives students the chance to combine their knowledge of applied physics, mathematics, computer programming, digital prototyping and integrated problem solving teamwork and leadership. The teams are required to follow specific rules with limited resources to build, program and customize their robots.
Each year, the rules of the competition change. This year’s competition was called VEX sack attack and was played on a 12-foot-by-12-foot square field. Two alliances, composed of two teams from different schools, compete in matches consisting of a 15-second autonomous period followed by a 1 minute and 45 seconds of driver-controlled play. The object of the game was to obtain a higher score than the opponent by collecting more bean bag sacks in a trough.
The after-school robotic team began meeting in November in preparation. Tyson Jeppson an 11th grader didn’t know anything about robotics when he joined the club.
“I just decided to show up. It seemed like something fun to do, and I thought it was cool that people at Davis high were building robots,” he said.
Senior Scott DeCow took a class where he was introduced to robotics and found the concepts exciting. The robotic club was a great way to obtain some experience outside of the theoretical classroom setting. DeCow plans to attend Utah State and major in electrical engineering. Teacher Dane Leifson agrees that the students need these out-of-class, hands-on projects.
Team Water Buffalo attended the world championship for the second time and had the clear advantage over their newbie teammates. They made it into the finals and took second place in their world division. The Water Buffalo team was the “dream team” Leifson said.
They knew the importance of getting out and campaigning for their team at the competition. Teams are allowed to choose who their alliances will be in the final.
“We were able to get out and meet other teams and let them know what we were capable of and that we would be a good teammate,” said Tyler Merrill.
The group agreed that the hardest worker in the club is junior Kyle Story. Kyle, a programmer and driver, ranked second in the competition for his programming of the robot for its minute of unmanned scoring.
“It’s a real challenge, the objects are fluid and you never really know where they are going to end up,” Kyle said. He spent more than 60 hours programming the robots. He was at the competition from the time it opened to the time it closed tweaking his programming.