There were no cheerleading squads nor pep bands to accentuate the event, but all those at Sultana High School on a recent Saturday were pleased with the enthusiasm of the teams of young people inside the gymnasium.


Fans supporting the Dec. 10 competition were teams of students who had been working since September for an opportunity to see if the robots they constructed would perform as designed. It was the third of four qualifying events in the VEX Robotic Competition, and these dedicated young people were having as much fun with their competition as any physical sporting event held at their high schools.


These young people have their interest and commitment to robotics in common but they do not come from level playing fields. The amount of interest and support


provided by their communities and school districts differs widely.


Some schools offer classes in robotics. You might find these in the engineering or computer departments or in shop classes, and the districts provide paid teachers. Some districts only provide nominal sponsorship by allowing the students to form after school robotics clubs and the teacher advisors are there on their own time without payment. Some clubs raise funds to purchase the parts for their robots and others have applied for and received grants.


It's commendable that the Hesperia Unified School District allows them to do their VEX competition here in town at Sultana High School. I suspect that the reason they are here has most to do with the forward thinking of Jay Winters, auto shop teacher at Sultana High and president of the VEX event.


The parts in this VEX Robotics Competition resemble the erector sets that have always been common among educational toys. VEX makes and sells the parts but, for the competition, components identical to the VEX parts may be used. VEX creates the game plan and design parameters for the competition.


The first step for the students was to conceive a robotic design to accomplish the task required for the VEX game. Design and construction depends on the creativity of the teams of students with perhaps a little advice from their adult advisors. It's encouraging to see the variety of designs. This shows these young people can think outside the box.


At the competition event each robot is inspected to be sure it meets the numerous technical requirements for this level of competition. The inspection is for overall size; it assures that each team has only one entry and demonstrates assurance that their robot will not entangle or damage other entries. For the December event, Tina Collins advisor at Valley Center HS Modesto was the onsite inspector.


The requirement for the VEX competition this year was to construct a robot that would accumulate the highest score by picking up non-identical cylindrical shaped objects and placing them into the designated collection baskets. It's done as a timed game taking place on a 12 foot by 12 foot field on the gymnasium floor.


Two robots at a time competed against each other in each of the four sections of the field. There were thirteen goals of varying heights into which robots should electronically maneuver to deposit any of the 26 plastic barrels, eighteen balls, two double barrels (or two black negation barrels, which take away the accumulated score of the opposing team's robot). This was when the enthusiastic cheers from the crowd became contagious.


Those robots scoring the most points moved to the next level of elimination events. It's a fast-moving game of strategy but it's also a game that depends entirely upon the performance of the student constructed robot. The team that designed a functioning robot proved to be best prepared for this task will probably win the event.


The next qualifying competition will be at Sultana High on Jan. 14. It's a fun event to attend. Let's plan to be there to encourage and support these bright young


people.


After the January event, the teams with the highest scores in three of the four qualifying events will move into the VEX US National Championship Event. This year the World Championship will be held in Anaheim. I hope some of our student teams in the High Desert League progress that far.