Winters Robotics Club hosts tourney, seeks volunteers

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The Winters Robotics team traveled to its first 2022 VEX World Championship in Dallas, Texas in May. (Courtesy photo)

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The Winters Robotics Club (WRC) is hosting a clash of science and engineering known as the VEX Robotics Competition. As the club itself bolsters the interest of young engineers, the competition allows them to prove their mettle while their robots prove their metal.

Alongside the WRC is the nonprofit organization, Winters Robotics, Inc. Essentially, it’s the booster/fundraiser entity that keeps the WRC’s gears turning. Although Winters Robotics, Inc. isn’t associated with the Winters Joint Unified School District (Winters JUSD), the WRC is, and is comprised of members from sixth grade all the way through 12th.

“Our mission is to help kids have an opportunity to explore engineering in a creative environment where they get to be hands-on. For some, engineering or science and math might seem intimidating, but this is a very fun environment to be in,” said Winters Robotics, Inc. President Elizabeth Nelson. “It’s like a tinker lab in a way. You get to build something and watch it succeed or not succeed because failure is part of the process. Then they get to figure out a way to overcome the challenges they’re encountering and end up at a competitive tournament venue. The kids get really excited about that and it just helps them have fun with the process.”

VEX itself refers to the robotics platform the teams use. The
interesting thing about the VEX competition is, rather than keep the rules static, every season features a different style of play with different rules.

“Each year VEX releases a new, game-based challenge to help the kids learn different types of engineering skills. This year’s season is called ‘spin-up.’ It’s essentially like playing disc golf, but much more complicated,” said Nelson, who’s also the mother of two WRC members. “It’s simple in concept, but challenging in that it really makes students think about not just getting the disk in the basket, but thinking about strategy and paying attention to what the other team is doing. There’s also other game components that affect the score, like if your robot or disks are in a certain area at the end as well. There’s a lot of strategy.”

The competition begins with qualifying matches. Teams are paired randomly with another team to compete together against two other teams. If teams score enough points to advance to the next round, they’re able to choose the team they want to ally with in the elimination matches. This, of course, challenges competitors to be mindful of not only other robots’ capabilities, but how they would complement their own as well as the overall strategy.

“You start seeing some familiar faces attending these robotics competitions in the region. It’s a great way to network and it really opens kids’ eyes to the possibilities that are out there,” said Nelson. “These competitions are a great environment for a new person as well. I had zero experience with robotics, but it’s so fun and people are excited to share with you what they know about robotics and makes it a fun environment as well.”

The VEX competition takes place on Oct. 22 and 23 at Winters High School Young Gymnasium. Like any volunteer-based effort, volunteers are direly needed to facilitate this opportunity for these budding engineers. From referees and emcees to judges and concessions, there’s ample volunteer opportunities for any and all interested.

To sign up to volunteer at the upcoming VEX competition, check out the SignUpGenius at https://tinyurl.com/2p9z2dft.

The tournament hours are from 7:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Once they have volunteers situated, they may be able to break some of the jobs down into shifts. Certain jobs require training, and the training module links are listed on the SignUpGenius page as well as more details about the jobs and who to contact for more information.

WHS students will compete on Saturday, Oct. 22 and Winters Middle School students will compete on Sunday, Oct. 23. Students are encouraged to volunteer at the event, as well as community members. Attendance is free to the community.

For more information or to make a donation, email WRC at wintersrobotics@gmail.com.

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