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Johnson County Middle School VEX Robotics team advances to world championship

Zach Vance • Mar 8, 2017 at 10:41 AM

After launching its program just two years ago, a Johnson County Middle School VEX Robotics team is advancing to the 2017 VEX Worlds competition in April.

The local team earned the world championship bid after winning the Excellence Award during this past weekend’s state competition at Brentwood Academy. 

“We were so excited,” said Johnson County VEX coach Susan Quave. “It’s not unbelievable because I knew they could do it, it was just a state of shock that, ‘Hey, we’re really going to (the) world championship.’ ” 

The VEX Robotics Excellence Award is handed out to the best all-around program at each competition. The award’s criteria includes the robot’s design, its performance, the team’s chronicle notebook and judge interviews. 

Matthew Peake, Dillon Trivette, Isaac Brown, Lauren Paterson, Hunter Graybeal and Robert Coffey are the members of the team advancing to the world competition. 

Along with Quave, other coaches on the team include Terri Henson and Lane Sentell.

“We were jumping up and down and couldn’t stop smiling,” Brown said. “We just couldn’t believe that we won. We were just so excited and we still are.”

Brown said he hoped his team will represent his county, school and state the best it can while competing at the world championship. 

All of this year’s competitions involved robots competing in a 12-foot-by-12-foot field. The object is for the student-built robots to hurl “stars” and “cubes” over a fence and into “zones” to tally points. Teams can also earn points by attaching their robot to a bar in the corner of the field and picking itself up, called “hanging.”

Between now and the competition, Brown said his team is in the midst of making their robot lighter.

“We’ve got to make it lighter. We’ve seen some other teams where they’re using aluminum and zinc so we’re going to replace some of our parts and work on more programs for the robot,” said Brown, who programs and chronicles the team’s notebook, which details the process of building the robot. 

Quave said Johnson County Middle School is the only public middle school in Tennessee moving on to the next round of competition. 

Brentwood Academy’s middle school team also will compete at the world championship at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville from April 19-22.

That competition will feature hundreds of teams from across the globe, including Hong Kong, Egypt and the United Kingdom, Quave said. 

“I’m really excited to go to world (championship) but I’m also really nervous because I’m not going to know how to speak some languages,” Paterson said. 

While the bar is certainly set high for future Johnson County Middle School teams, Quave said her next goal is to eventually mesh robotics into the school’s curriculum. 

Just last month, the school made history by hosting the first-ever VEX Robotics state qualifying match in Northeast Tennessee. 

Quave said the team is accepting donations for hotel, food and travel expenses.

Donations can be mailed to: Johnson County Middle School VEX Robotics Team, 278 Fairground Hill, Mountain City, TN 37683.  

Email Zach Vance at zvance@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP. 

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