VEX Robotics students find their creativity in engineering
On Tuesday January 17th, Mrs. Shannon LoRusso’s 7th grade VEX Robotics class had their competition for their Survival Project Robots. They had Officer Mike and Officer Erik from Critical Intervention Services judge their robots. The winners were Austin Gay and Brian Magenheimer.
VEX Robotics is a part of the national engineering program taught at Farragut called Project Lead The Way. 7th grade students use the VEX Robotics platform to design, build, and program real-world objects such as traffic lights, toll booths, and robotic arms. Each project has a very specific scenario and requirements, and this project was no exception.
The year is 2201. The Earth as we know it no longer exists. Civilization has destroyed itself through nuclear wars, pollution, and lack of respect for the environment. The human race has all but ceased to exist.
A group of multi-cultural scientists, doctors, and engineers have survived by living in a biosphere for the last 20 years. As they emerge from their protective sphere, they find the earth totally destroyed. They need to rebuild the Earth and civilization. They will have to rebuild using only recycled materials that can be scavenged from the countryside while protecting themselves from wild animals.
- One gear must make an up and down motion.
One gear must be reciprocating.
- One gear must be rotating.
- Two of the gears may be on hand cranks.
- Only one gear train may be related to defense.
- One of the gears must move when the wheels move (no hand crank).
- Each gear train must have a specific job related to survival that can be clearly explained.
- Students earned extra credit if they had 2 or more gears moving when the wheels moved (no hand crank).
The robot built by Austin and Brian followed these requirements and more. “It was really creative,” said Mrs. LoRusso. “That’s one reason why Officer Mike and Officer Erik chose it as the winner. They did more work than was required and definitely earned the extra credit. It was visually appealing and they were able to give a good explanation of each of the gears.”
“We loved the robot because of the enthusiasm of the students during their presentation and the imaginative way that they used their robot to address the scenario,” Officer Mike added.
The robot included many elements that would help in a survival and defense scenario. “It had a knife thrower so nobody can sneak up behind it, a big gun on the front that moves back and forth for hunting and defense, crank slider with a woodcutter, and a thing that moves up and down for a head crusher,” Austin and Brian explained.
“I’ve thought about engineering as a career,” Brian said. “I really like that we get to build things in this class, and that we can be creative about what we’re building.”
“VEX Robotics is an outstanding program,” said Officer Mike. “It lays a good foundation for students that might be interested in pursuing not just robotic engineering but several other creative fields as well.”
“I think a lot of kids are missing the skills to use basic tools.,” Said Mrs. LoRusso. “I said something to my class once about the threads on a screw and a student asked me what threads are. Building stuff is just something kids need to know. It also teaches them about how machinery works, and when we get into programming it teaches them how to break down processes step-by-step which is important in any area or career. Most importantly, it teaches them about teamwork, and it forces them to work as a team.”
The program is instrumental in preparing students for upper school engineering as well. “It gives them the basics of engineering, such as remembering to put the bearings in so metal isn’t rubbing against itself. It also gives them a foundation in programming, so that when they get to Upper School they can learn the more advanced stuff.”
Austin and Brian will get to go out to lunch with Mrs. LoRusso as a reward.