By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
As robotics competition gains popularity across Killeen ISD, two schools added to their trophy cases and a third school began a new robotics winning tradition in a state qualifier last week.
At the Texas Computer Educators Association regional robotics competition in Waco, teams from Meadows Elementary School, Shoemaker High School and Killeen High School advanced to state competition.
Meadows and Shoemaker have been bringing home robotics hardware for years and Killeen High is a new entry in the field.
Meadows took three fifth-grade teams to the regional event and finished first, second and third in arena robotics competition, outperforming middle school teams as the only elementary group in the tournament.
The school's top two finishers, the TechWreck and the Tech RoBoys will continue to the state level of competition, scheduled April 9 in San Angelo.
Meadows' 11-member team competed in the fourth- through eighth-grade intermediate division and was the only elementary school team, rising above a field of all middle school teams.
Shoemaker High School, competing in the advanced division for high school teams finished first and third in inventions and first and third in the arena competition, also qualifying two teams for the state competition.
The Shoemaker Cyberwolves have competed in various robotics events since the school opened in 2000-01. The team won four awards in the Heart of Texas BEST Robotics regional in October.
Killeen High School's new robotics club sent 16 students to the Waco event last week and finished in second place in the arena competition. The top two finishers qualified to continue to the state level.
KHS computer science teacher Sherry Shoemaker said the event was a satisfying one for the fledgling team.
"It was really positive," Shoemaker said. "They are learning teamwork and have to do a lot of experimentation. I think they learn a lot about their strengths and weaknesses."
Daniel Young, a Meadows fifth-grader on the second-place finishing team said he and his classmates entered the fray in Waco a little wide-eyed as the only elementary team in the building. After his Tech RoBoys scored a solid 175 points in the opening round, students settled down, posting 120 points in the second round and making an adjustment to pull out 200 points in the final round.
A second Meadows team, TechWreck, also started scared, but built confidence as they discovered they were up to the task.
In arena competition, teams build and program their robot in advance to meet a specified challenge to score the most points on a tabletop playing board.
This year's challenge called on robots to use claws to pick up, carry and place different kinds of cans on certain places on the playing surface.
"When it was our turn, we were scared," said Meadows fifth-grader Vanessa O'Rozco, who competed with the eventual first-place team. "We prayed and we talked to our robot," she said.
That strategy apparently worked as the team scored 200 points in the first round.
The game included an unexpected change in the formation of the cans, which required some adjustment, students explained.
At the end of the three rounds, two Meadows teams were tied in total points so placement was established through a tiebreaker.
Still, all three Meadows teams finished at the top of the intermediate division - TechWreck, Tech RoBoys and Techno Cupcakes.
The robotics competition challenged students to plan and prepare in advance and to work together as a team.