PHOTO: Elm Middle School students Adam Vergara, Sam Perez and Chris Gonzalez prepare a robot for competition. Scroll down for more photos.
During the 2016-17 school year, a dedicated group of Elm students put their science, technology, engineering and math skills to the test in the school's robotics program.
Three Elm teams will compete Saturday, March 4, in the Illinois Middle School VEX Robotics State Championship at Julian Middle School in Oak Park.
To qualify, the teams placed among the top finishers at the Great Lakes VEX Robotics Skills Challenge held Feb. 19 at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia.
Elm's qualifying teams are:
► Transformers — Chris Gonzalez, Alexa Duarte, Samuel Perez
► The Barbra Shop — Isaiah Solis, Adam Vergara
► Triggered — Uriel Delgado, Bart Krzeminski
Mr. Steve Mrkvicka is Elm's head coach, and Mr. Christian Hartwig is assistant coach.
What Is VEX Robotics?
In VEX Robotics, student teams build and program their own robots to play against other teams in a game-based engineering challenge.
This year's challenge is called "Starstruck," which is played on a 12-foot-by-12-foot mat with a fence in the middle.
Teams — actually, alliances of two teams on each opposing side — score points by moving foam stars and cubes across the fence into the designated scoring zones. (For additional information about VEX scoring, watch this video.)
Perseverance and Support Pays Off
"It's been a very good year," said Mr. Mrkvicka, who teaches science at Elm. "Three of four teams qualified to go to the state championship. A lot of time has gone into building the robots. Students struggle with the frustrations that come from failure, and keeping their nose to the grindstone. Those who stick to it and work their way through problems can see success in their efforts."
In addition to the stewardship provided by coaches Mrkvicka and Hartwig, who teaches social studies at Elm, the school's robotics program has received valuable support from the Elmwood Park Educational Foundation. EPEF raised nearly $2,300 for the program in 2015-16 and sponsored a competition at Elm in December.
"The competitions are exciting," Mr. Mrkvicka said. "I think two of the most important life skills that we work on are perseverance and working together as a team."
In early February, Elm students participated in one of the area's largest VEX Robotics events, Julian's annual Battle of the Bots on Feb. 4. Four Elm teams took part:
► Transformers — Alexa Duarte, Chris Gonzalez, Patrycja Perz, Samuel Perez
► Four Pairs of Glasses — Edgar Ceballos, Sergio Ceballos, George Gauthier, Vincenzo Melick
► The Barbra Shop — Natalie Gruszka, Isaiah Solis, Melany Terraza
► Triggered — Kacper Ambrozewicz, Joan Burnazi, Uriel Delgado, Bart Krzeminski
Although the teams didn't qualify for state that day, their experience at Battle of the Bots laid the groundwork for Elm's success two weeks later in Batavia.
If You Plan to Attend the State Championship
Saturday's state championship is free and open to the public.
Julian Middle School is located at 416 S. Ridgeland Ave., Oak Park. Doors open at 7 a.m., with the opening ceremony scheduled for 9:20.
Qualification matches will begin at 9:30, and elimination matches will start at 2 p.m. The event will conclude with an awards ceremony at 3:30. For more information, please visit the event's official website.
Good luck to all! In the meantime, here are photos of Elm students and coaches participating in Julian's Battle of the Bots last month.
Photos from the 2017 Battle of the Bots