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Growing STEM: Northeast Ohio teams headed to world’s largest robot competition

VEX Robotics hold tournaments all year round. For the first time the Ohio Championship was held in Akron, with the world's event coming up this spring.

AKRON, Ohio — Earlier this month, 96 teams came to Akron to find out who is the best in VRC in the 2023 Ohio VEX Robotics High School State Championship.

VEX Robotics makes educational robotics for students from pre-K through high school. Each year, a different game is created to put teams' robot-building skills to the test. This is STEM “problem solving” disguised as competitive fun, in an arena where failure is rewarded.

“The faster you fail, the more efficient you become at playing the different games that they come out every year because you learn what works and what doesn't work,” said Drew Roberson, a junior at Elyria High School.

“The skills that this platform gives you allows them to be prepared for whatever they are going to go into in the future,” said Rob Smith, a sales manager for VEX Robotics, Inc.

This year students are playing “Spin Up," a head-to-head game where robots toss small discs into goals. Throughout the match, there are additional ways to score.

“This just has to be probably one of our hardest tournaments just because it's from the best of the best all over the state,” said Roberson. “And everyone has fought hard to get into this tournament because they know it can get you to the next level.”

That next level, the VEX Robotics World Championship 2023, will be held in Dallas from April 28 through May 4.

“I'm really excited. I think we can do really well. Well, I'm also really proud we got eight teams at Worlds, the best in Ohio,” said Cadence Gul, a sophomore at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School.

Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School is on their way to Dallas after winning the state tournament. Now they are relying on all the lessons they have learned, to take in up a level.

“I've learned so much stuff, engineering programing, just teamwork wise, too. Like actual life lessons,” said Gul.

“We start with two goals. One, it's to learn. Two, to have fun. Yes, winning helps the fun part. Definitely,” stated Craig Kowatch, the Robotics Coach for Brecksville -Broadview Heights High School.

Kowatch has taken teams to the world championship nine years in a row.

“Now it's not just going for the experience, it's going because they know they can compete at that top level,” said Kowatch.

They will be facing teams from over 30 countries in the world’s largest robot competition. Now is the time to dial everything in on.

“We don't really want to change too much, just to make sure everything's still consistent. But (there's) a lot of programing work and me being the programmer, I know I have a lot of work I want to do,” said Gul.

Along with Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron, Elyria, Brookside, NIHF STEM, Norwalk and Wooster high schools all had teams qualify for the World Championship.

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