Hoping for worlds: Smith robotics team raising funds to compete at world championships

Students from a local elementary school are headed to the VEX Robotics World Championship — if they can raise $17,000 by mid-April.

Smith Elementary’s Sonic Cyborgs, a VEX IQ Elementary team, competed in the Indiana State Robotics Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday. The team’s performance in Indianapolis qualified them for world competition three times over, said STEM teacher and coach Lisa Haines. The Sonic Cyborgs had a qualifying skills score, won the Create Award and came in third place for the Teamwork Challenge Award.

“They have done the unthinkable,” said Haines. “My goal was just not to be embarrassed at regular competitions. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that we would have been going to state, much less getting a world invite, within our first year of participating in the robotics league.”

The 2023 VEX Robotics World Championship will be held in Dallas, Texas, with the VEX IQ Elementary competition taking place from May 2 to May 4.

Haines estimated the total cost of attending the world championship to be about $17,000, which she would want to raise by April 15 in order to secure flights.

As of Monday afternoon, the team had already received donations totaling $6,700. This includes a $1,200 donation from Techpoint Foundation for Youth to cover their competition entry fee, $5,000 from Grammer Industries, and $500 from other donations.

“Any help that we could get from the community we would be greatly appreciative of,” said Haines. “And it’s a payoff that’s going to inspire the kids to continue on in this, in STEM careers.”

This year’s VEX IQ Competition game is called “Slapshot.” Points are scored by getting robots to unload discs from dispensers, launch these discs across the field and stretch across fences to touch “contact zones.”

“Two robots compete in the Teamwork Challenge as an alliance in 60 second long teamwork matches, working collaboratively to score points,” the rules state. “Teams also compete in the Robot Skills Challenge where one robot takes the field to score as many points as possible. These matches consist of Driving Skills Matches, which will be entirely driver controlled, and Programming Skills Matches, which will be autonomous with limited human interaction.”

According to TechPoint Foundation for Youth, which hosts the state championship, 130 Vex IQ Elementary teams competed at state, and 84 were awarded invitations to the world championship. There were 71 of the world qualifiers determined based on 47 performance awards and 24 judged awards. An additional 13 teams were selected based on their skill standings.