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VEX Robotics World Championship Recap


The 4th annual VEX Robotics World Championship, held at  Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida, April 14 – 16, was a phenomenal event of enormous proportions, exceeding all previous records in size for VEX Competitions. This year, almost 600 out of the nearly 4,000 VEX Robotics Competition teams worldwide, representing 16 countries, earned the right to bring their robotic masterpieces to the Happiest Place on Earth for the action-packed global tournament. To get to the World Champs, these teams had to prove themselves by winning regional competitions.


Participants at the VEX Robotics World Championship were joined by Kari Byron, co-host of the Discovery Channel’s hit show MYTHBUSTERS and the Science Channel’s HEAD RUSH. Kari emceed the finals and visited dozens of teams on Friday and Saturday to chat about the benefits of VEX competitions and for photo opportunities that will be lifelong keepsakes for event participants.


As the gates opened at 7:30 AM Thursday, students were showered with confetti from bursting canons, welcomed by stilt walkers, a resident DJ, and entertained by a graffiti artist that painted the town robo-red in honor of the intense competition. The competition was punctuated by entertaining mini-events performed by Disney characters and professionals.


The games kicked off on Thursday and continued Friday when teams from around the world poured into the stadium for the opening ceremonies, waving colorful flags from their respective countries. It was stunning seeing them march across the baseball diamond. The teams were hailed by Mickey and friends, and after official welcoming speeches, a professional dance group entertained the crowds from stage center. The bleachers were packed with onlookers!


The resident DJ, on stage outdoors at the center of the multi-building complex, played great music throughout the event. Toward the end of the finals, a hilarious skit was performed on stage by professional drummers who were interrupted by none other than Goofy, who joined in the drumming fun.


On the competition field, winning alliances, composed of three teams each, fought their way to the top in Middle School, High School and College divisions. In these games, two robots compete for a red alliance, and two robots form the opposing alliance on the blue side. To score points in the game, Round Up, an alliance must place their colored rings on goal posts–and an alliance can “descore” its opponents by removing rings the opposing alliance had placed on goal posts. Some goal posts were fixed and some had rounded oval bases, causing them to wobble if bumped — there was a premium on the agility and dexterity of the robots.

A 36-inch tall ladder located at the center of the field was available to achieve additional points if the robot could scale this structure and “hang” at the end of the match, before the two minute match time had elapsed. More points were scored if the robot could hang from the top of the ladder, above the yellow rung, than if it just scaled the ladder base and was able to hang above the orange bottom rung. A minority of teams deployed ladder hanging capability and the fastest could scale the ladder and hang in a period of several seconds.

Matches began with a 20 second autonomous period, and the balance of the two minute match was remote controlled. Click here for a video of Round Up with cool animated graphics.



To even participate in a VEX competition, students have to join a team and dive into the complex collaborative design and team management process necessary to create and campaign a successful robot. Along the way, teams are judged not just on their competition robots’ game scores but also on the level of communication within the team, community outreach, design development documentation and more.


Teams that rose to a level qualifying them to participate at the VEX World Championship were extraordinarily capable competitors–to even be at this competition defined you as a winner–the best of the best of the world’s youth. The participating teams truly represent the next generation of innovators. It was a moving experience to see these diverse teams in action–from every corner of the U.S. and from so many diverse countries worldwide.


After outmaneuvering scores of the world’s best teams during the intense three-day tournament, winning alliances from the United States, Canada, China and New Zealand stood tall as the best VEX Robotics competitors. Following a series of intense back-to-back matches and elimination rounds, the High School Champion alliance emerged with teams comprised of Massachusetts Green Egg Robotics Club, Washington s W.A.S.A.B.I. 2 and Ontario, Canada s Simbotics teams.


The Middle School Champion represented an alliance of China teams from Sichuan Chengdu Longjiang Road Primary School and the Shanghai Luwan Teenagers Activity Center. The College Championship title went to Massey University from New Zealand. 


In addition, one team from each of the three divisions was presented with an Excellence Award, the highest honor in the VEX Robotics Competition, given to the team with the most well-rounded VEX Robotics Program. Middle School, High School and College Excellence Award winners included, the VEXMEN: NightCrawler team from Downingtown Area Robotics in Downingtown, Pa., the Cheesy Poofs from Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, Calif., and Massey University in New Zealand.


BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology), also conducted their national championship at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. See an interview with BEST Executive Director George Blanks below:



First, second and third place overall BEST Award Winners were, respectively, Metro Homeschool (#237, River Valley BEST), DARC (#217, Tennessee Valley BEST) and OKC Homeschool (#206, Oklahoma BEST). Overall Game Winners for positions first through fourth place, respectively, were REACH Homeschool (#17, Bison BEST), Central Magnet School (#129, Music City BEST), Metro Homeschool (#237, River Valley BEST), and Ambassadors for Christ Academy (#122, Kansas BEST). Click here for detailed scores.


The Coast Guard held a competition in which high school students created remote control boats using foam and VEX parts that would simulate missions including managing an oil slick, chasing and capturing a fugitive drug runner, enabling a helicopter to land on deck and other tasks.


The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced a Robotics Merit Badge at the Championship, and the BSA was on hand to award some of the first of these badges to more than 25 deserving scouts. We were pleased to interview Janice Downey, BSA Senior Innovation Manager, who spearheaded that program.



With so many hundreds of teams competing there were hundreds of teachers and team mentors present, all of whom shared deep enthusiasm for how participating in the VEX Robotics Competition is a beneficial, transforming experience that inspires students to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects and technical careers. Experiencing VEX Robotics helps students prepare to be the innovators of tomorrow. Check out our interview with Physics teacher Daron Moore, who captures the views of the educators at the World Championship the people who are the driving force behind the rapid growth of VEX Robotics competitions.


As the fastest growing robotics program and largest middle and high school competition in the world, the VEX Robotics World Championship is a testament to the increasing interest in engaging kids in STEM education through robotics, said Jason Morrella, president of the REC Foundation, which stands for Robotics Education and Competition Foundation.  Robotics is a perfect model for workforce development, and it s critical that we prepare our youth to succeed in today s rapidly-advancing competitive world, by imbedding programs like VEX Robotics into daytime curriculum, and then enabling them to test their skills as an extracurricular activity in events like this.

The 2011/2012 VEX Robotics Competition game Gateway was unveiled after much anticipation at the tournament. The object of next year s game is to attain a higher score than your opponent by picking up colored balls and barrels and placing them in circular goalposts of varying heights. Jason Morrella also announced that the venue for next year s World Championship will be Disneyland, in Anaheim, California!


Presenting co-sponsors of the 2011 VEX Robotics Competition World Championship included Autodesk Inc., NASA, EMC Corporation, and the FUTURE Foundation.  Additional supporting partners included Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation, Microchip, Intelitek, Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University, the CREATE Foundation and Northrop Grumman.