By Meg Dickens
It would be an understatement to say that the Johnson County Middle School’s Robotics Teams are impressive. These students have won a plethora of awards in the 2017-2018 school year alone. These awards and titles include The Sportsmanship Award, the Robot Skills Champion Award, three Tournament Champion Awards, and two Design Awards. They added a Design Award and a first-place win at their competition in Clinton, TN on February 10, and a Design Award and Skills Award at the Dandridge Competition on February 17.
Team A members are Dillon Long, builder, and driver; Brandon Sutherland, programmer; Jackie Jensen, journalist.
Team B members are Wyatt Decker, programmer and driver; Damon Thompson, builder; McGreger Barnhill, journalist.
All members started out with no prior knowledge of robotics. The students do everything from designing and building their robots to programming and modifying code.
According to Decker, they learned a lot through YouTube and old-fashioned collaboration with each other, the Johnson County High School teams, and teachers.
“YouTube has good examples and good competitions. We learned a lot about robotics; mostly about programming and building.”
Currently, both teams are working on their autonomous controls. The feat of programming allows the robot to move on its own without any instruction momentarily. The students showed off their robots with a mock competition of Vex Robotics Challenge “In the Zone.” The goal is for each team to maneuver its robot around the field, pick up the appropriate colored cones, and transfer them into their own goals within a set amount of time.
The program has many real-world applications. Interview portions help students with job interviews and sharpen critical thinking,” according to Jensen. The skills may also be the first step towards a career for students such as Sutherland and Decker who plan to pursue robotics or engineering.
JCMS team sponsor and teacher, Susan Quave, is amazed by the progress made.
“Since starting the program, three years ago, my goal was to increase STEM learning through robotics in our county. I never thought we would make it to the World Competition in two years. Who knows what this year will bring? The middle school teams have sixfirst-year robotics students, and it will not surprise me if we make another trip to the World Competition. Thank you to all the businesses and individuals that support our teams and make this possible.”
The teams are now getting prepared to go to the State Competition in Brentwood, Tennessee on March 2, and 3.