Pioneer Clas­sic Vex tour­na­ment grows

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bri­ana Con­tr­eras bcon­tr­[email protected]­ingjour­nal. com @MJ_B­con­tr­eras on Twit­ter

A se­cond an­nual Pioneer Clas­sic Mid­dle School Robotics Tour­na­ment brought ac­tion Satur­day into Elyria High School Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter.

Over 40 mid­dle school robotics teams from around the state, in­clud­ing six Elyria teams, com­peted with ro­bots they made for the lat­est VEX Robotics chal­lenge: Turn­ing Point.

Fam­ily and fans cheered on the teams in the PAC at 600 West Ave. while ro­bots were put to the test in a 12’x12’ bat­tle­field.

View­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties were also avail­able on Youtube for fans to en­joy.

Brian Kokai, di­rec­tor of tech­nol­ogy op­er­a­tions at Elyria Schools, said this year’s chal­lenge con­sisted of three dif­fer­ent ob­jec­tives.

Turn­ing Point re­quires a team’s ro­bot to shoot a flag, flip or stack a cap and park on a cen­ter plat­form.

Kokai said it’s a fun game be­cause there is so much vari­a­tion in what teams can do and in the end they are all bat­tling for the park­ing plat­forms.

“It’s like king of the hill, but ro­bot style,” Kokai said.

All 41 teams this year com­peted to reach the num­ber one seed as tour­na­ment cham­pion, with ad­di­tional awards rec­og­niz­ing team’s hard work, he added.

This is the se­cond year Elyria has hosted a robotics com­pe­ti­tion for mid­dle school stu­dents only.

The mid­dle school pro­gram is in its se­cond year, while the high school pro­gram is in its third.

Mem­bers of the high school’s robotics teams vol­un­teered their time to help with the tour­na­ment.

At last year’s first Pioneer Clas­sic, the 2017 VEX chal­lenge “In the Zone,” was held in the high school’s small gym­na­sium with 19 Ohio teams com­pet­ing.

Kokai said much has changed be­tween the mid­dle school and high school robotics pro­grams, and bring­ing the show to the high school’s per­for­mance cen­ter was more suit­able.

“We’re try­ing to give (teams) a more pro­fes­sional type feel you’d see at a (Vex Robotics event) and show what we can do at our Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter,” Kokai said. “We also wanted to give our mid­dle school teams a good ex­pe­ri­ence rather than mix­ing mid­dle school and high school teams to­gether so they can com­pete with peo­ple in their age group.”

Kokai added bring­ing dif­fer­ent dis­tricts and fam­i­lies from around the state to Elyria City Schools has been a goal to fight an ur­ban school per­cep­tions.

“There is more to Elyria and its schools than the bad stereo­types some be­lieve,” he said.

With the newer high school and projects to im­prove the dis­trict, Kokai said op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents have grown and it shows in their robotics pro­gram.

He said the num­bers have dou­bled for par­tic­i­pa­tion in robotics be­tween Elyria high school and mid­dle school stu­dents.

Elyria High School’s robotics team has grown from 12 stu­dents in the first year to 50 in its third year, Kokai said.

There were three robotics teams be­tween Elyria’s North­wood, West­wood and Eastern Heights mid­dle schools last year and this year there are now seven teams.

Kokai and staff have said their mid­dle school team has ranked No. 1 in the county, No. 2 in the state and No. 45 in the world.

The high school is ranked No. 32 na­tion­ally.

The mid­dle school team also is plan­ning to travel to Cal­i­for­nia to Google head­quar­ters in Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent Ann Schloss.

Kokai said he be­lieves robotics will con­tinue to grow not only in Elyria, but ev­ery­where.

The dis­trict might be in­ter­ested in host­ing a high school com­pe­ti­tion in the fu­ture, he said.


Over 40 Ohio Mid­dle School Robotics teams faced off Jan. 12 at Elyria High School Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, 600 West Ave., Elyria, for a se­cond an­nual Pioneer Clas­sic. Six Elyria mid­dle school teams par­tic­i­pated in the VEX Com­pe­ti­tion with this year’s chal­lenge: Turn­ing Point.

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