Robotics Travels to State


Leah Mock, Author

To compete at the South Texas State Championships, Robotics teams 1718A and 1718D traveled to League City, Texas on Fri., Feb. 22.

“The announcement of our team making it to State gave us all a great deal of satisfaction,” junior and team captain of 1718D Zach Russell said. “We felt like a bunch of parents raising a mechanical child from the womb to its first nine-to-five.”

The teams each spent several months tweaking their robots. Team 1718A was led by senior Neal Hext.

“We had to work out many many kinks along the way with autonomous and driving controls,” Hext said. “In the end, we did like what we took to state.”

None of the students on Russell’s team had ever competed in a Robotics tournament. Some of them had never touched a VEX part.

“Our teams might not have been the most experienced, but we are definitely a determined group of kids,” Russell said. “We spent many nights staying at school well past my bedtime working on our robot.”

While some teams built their robots with V5 motors, the Montgomery teams could only use V4 motors because V5 motors were on backorder. Senior Chris Gary said V5 motors are 3 times more powerful than V4 motors.

“Unfortunately, this year we were at a disadvantage compared to last year,” Gary said. “On paper, we should’ve been able to adapt the difference in power between robots, but in reality, our robot just wasn’t as fast as the other robots.”

On Friday night, the students participated in a skills competition. The teams tried to score as many points as possible in an allotted time without any other bots on the field.

“We had a total of 24 skills points: 9 autonomous and 15 driver,” Gary said. “I don’t know what place that is at the state competition, but it’s not bad for normal competitions.”

The teams spent the night to prepare for the main competition on Saturday. In the elimination matches, the teams were randomly paired into alliances.

“We were paired with a ball launcher, but they broke down at the start, so we were eliminated,” Hext said. “We barely lost because of that.”

Russell said his team “did not do too hot” at State due to connection issues and errors in their base design.

“At some points, we just had to sit back and laugh a little bit,” Russell said. “We ended up feeling more successful in what we learned and in the connections we made rather than the performance of our robot.”

In the end, Both teams were interviewed by the judges. This meant their Engineering Notebooks were in the top percentage of their divisions.

“It was a little scary at first,” Hext said. “After we started talking a little bit, we got a lot more confident.”

Russell said he is planning to work with his team during the summer to get a head start on the bot. He said he made friends with the teams from the competing schools and plans to share ideas with them as he plans for next year.

“We have a much better understanding of what we need to do to succeed next year,” Russell said. “It will be a lot less trial and error!”