Berryville robotics team competes at Harrison

Friday, February 14, 2020
Berryville robotics team members Elijah Spring, Daniela Villegas, Makayla Malotte and Jason Helfrich pose with their robot, competition award, a block and the robot controller.
Photo by Haley Schichtl

By Haley Schichtl

Four Berryville students, senior Daniela Villegas, sophomore Jason Helfrich and freshmen Makayla Malotte and Elijah Spring, participated in a VEX robotics competition for the first time Saturday, Feb. 1 in Harrison.

The adviser for the robotics team, Jennifer Feltmann, said the team was sent a kit to build the robot from VEX a few months before.

“We were able to get a $900-plus kit that they have loaned us, and as long as we participate in one VEX competition a year, then the robotics team gets to keep the robot, and use it for other educational or competition purposes,” Feltmann said.

The competition consisted of taking apart and rebuilding their robots, doing an interview, giving the robot a skills test, and using their robots to pick up blocks and build a tower.

“The kids wanted to go above and beyond, and were working on some more advanced build techniques to try to be able to reach the higher towers and gather more blocks,” Feltmann said. “That didn’t work out, so they went back to the basic model with some modifications.”

Villegas said the night before the competition was a stressful time.

“Our first design was good; it was going to be efficient. … but we didn’t have the sliders, so I stayed up that whole night trying to figure out what to do,” Villegas said.

Feltmann said she received a text from Malotte early the morning of the competition asking for the gears and the book that has steps for building the basic model.

“I wasn’t sure we’d be able to compete at all, but they were build ninjas,” Feltmann said. “They did awesome. I was very proud of them.”

Villegas said the day, for her, was a pinnacle moment of her high school career.

“Each person’s strengths filled in another team member’s gaps,” Feltmann said. “Without each member of this team, we wouldn’t have done as well as we did.”

Villegas and Spring are the builders, Helfrich is the driver and Malotte is the programmer.

Malotte said the competition was an educational experience.

“We saw so many different types of robots,” Malotte said. “We learned what improvements we could make on our next competition, and what the pros and cons are of our robot.”

Feltmann said she loves getting to be part of the robotics competitions.

“It’s a lot of fun and we’ve been learning a lot. Well, I’ve been learning a lot; the kids are teaching me. One of the things I like about it is that it is all about the students,” Feltmann said. “I show up and say, hey guys, figure it out. I print out information and find videos and other resources I think will be helpful and put it on our Google Classroom. But it’s all them. I pretty much just show up to make sure nobody cuts an arm off.”

The team will participate in SeaPerch, an underwater robotics competition, in March. Feltmann said there are other students who have expressed interest in joining that weren’t able to be part of the VEX competition and may participate in this one.

“We can continue working on systems with the VEX robot, so we can keep the two going kind of separately, and continue to practice concepts that will help us next year,” Feltmann said.

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