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FULL VOLUME Hutto ISD holds robotics invitational

HUNTER DWORACZYK [email protected]

HUTTO — Some of Hutto Independent School District’s brightest students were able to show off their robotics skills last week.

Students from Hutto ISD’s elementary and middle schools competed in the VEX Robotics Invitational in Hutto Saturday, Jan. 20.

“This year’s game is called ‘Full Volume’,” said Rebecca Bales, the district’s robotics coordinator. “It’s all about moving 3D shapes into scoring towers to get points.”

The competition was solely filled with Hutto ISD students and served as a regional contest, with 13 of the 47 teams advancing to the state round.

The students, who were organized in teams of five or six, worked on building a robot that would work well for the game throughout the year in preparation for Full Volume.

Emma Bristow, Logynn O’Brien, Brayden McDade and Kaelyn Ricke celebrate a successful match score during VEX Full Volume Competition Saturday, Jan. 20. Photos courtesy of Hutto Independent School District
Leland Kaehler, Cameron Fischetti, Alexander Slaughter and Kinley Alford do a last-minute adjustment to their team’s robot before the match while hear referee Bryant Nelson observes.

During Full Volume, teams were paired randomly with another team with the goal of working together to get the most points in a given time. The teams partnered with multiple different teams throughout the day and the team with the highest score average was the winner.

“People start off thinking that ‘oh, it’s like Battlebots,’” Bales said. “But if you pay attention, they’re not going against each other. They are collaborating.”

Besides the Full Volume game, teams were scored on the engineering design notebook they used to plan their robot and how they were able to explain their group’s successes in an interview panel.

The teams also wrote code for the robot for a separate part of the competition that requires the machines to perform tasks without someone controlling it remotely.

While Bales describes competitions as an important aspect of robotics, she said the district’s program is involved with robotics in more than just competitions.

Hutto ISD has a robotics education and competition foundation, which is a program initiative that involves students practicing at school.

Bales said the REC program, which has spread to every school in the district, prides itself on being a student-centered foundation. Robotics teachers and coaches in the district let their students learn by failing, rather than being given an answer.

“Yes, competition and winning awards and advancing is an exciting part,” Bales said. “But truly, like any sport, whether it’s football, robotics, golf or cheer, really the work and development happens in practice and in those moments of struggle, failure and trying to work through things.”

According to Bales, robotics covers all areas of STEM, Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Students must use math, learn social skills, practice writing and journaling and are forced to develop problem solving functions.

It’s the type of skills that can set them up for future college and employment applications, she said.

“Robotics is giving them the skills of many of the high demand jobs out there and also jobs that haven’t even been created yet,” Bales said.

Hutto ISD will host another regional invitational Feb. 3. Middle school qualifiers will compete at state March 2 in San Antonio, while elementary school qualifiers will compete at state March 3 at Hutto Middle School.

Teams that do well at state will advance to the VEX World Robotics Championship in Dallas later this year.


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