Old Colony students build, put robots to the test at Vex Robotics Competition

Feb 10, 2024

ROCHESTER – The cafeteria at Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School became an arena for specially designed robots during the Vex Robotics Competition on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Old Colony hosted five other schools from Massachusetts and Rhode Island to face off in “Over Under,” which was the official game of the 2024 season for the Vex Robotics Competition. In the game, robots launched green acorn-shaped balls and aimed to place them in goal areas. The robots could also grab elevated bars to score additional points at the end of the two-minute matches.

During the event, participants competed in practice and qualification rounds in which teams of two robots played against each other. Old Colony students competed as “Team Rocket.” Participants could also perform individually as part of a skills challenge. 

“Different robots can do different things,” Old Colony sophomore Sean Plouffe said. His robot was able to push the triangular balls into the scoring area. 

“So if I’m partnered with someone who can throw them over the middle and to my side, I can push them underneath,” he said.

That robot at the competition was in fact the second one Plouffe had worked on, he said. The first one was hard to control due to the placement of its motors. 

Plouffe said he enjoys competing and that building the robot “takes a while.”

One robot on the Old Colony team was estimated to have been built over the course of 75 hours. And freshman Isabella Ficher said she spent a month building her robot.

Old Colony teacher and robotics coach Dan Brush said the event teaches “good competitive skills” as students work in teams and use planning and thought to create a robot from the ground up that can accomplish the tasks of the game.

“It’s all about ingenuity,” Brush said. “There’s a certain goal that has to be met.”

Another aspect of the competition is building an engineering notebook, according to Brush. That notebook documents a team’s design process. 

“There’s a lot of good work,” Brush said.

Sophomore Calvin Payne said his and his teammate’s robot was designed to do “almost all the tasks” of the game, its specialty being launching the acorn-shaped balls and getting off the ground.

What Payne likes about the competition is that “you get to test the robot you built and can see how well you did, how well it performs,” he said. 

Students at the event also build a community, according to Brush.

He said that through the robotics team, his shop at Old Colony has an alumni association of 60 graduates that meets yearly.

“That’s what life's all about,” Brush said.