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Grant robotics team triumphant despite robot breakdown

A near upset turned into an emotional victory at the Ohio VEX Robotics Middle School State Championship for a Grant Middle School robotics team that had triumphed most of the season.


Grant’s team of Surgeo Oswald, McKenzie Redmon, Damon Shoffner and Jaime Pineda won the Excellence Award at the state championship held at Marion Harding High School on March 10. The Excellence Award, the highest award presented in a VEX competition, recognizes a team that exemplifies overall excellence.

grant robotics team

The announcement of the award came after Surgeo and McKenzie, who formed an alliance with members of other teams, lost in the finals during the tournament. Surgeo’s gear box, which had issues throughout the day, completely gave out during the final match.


“Those things tend to happen,” said Surgeo, the team's captain, referring to what many robotics competitors say is the unpredictability factor when it comes to robotics competitions.


“It was the worst time for it to fail,” he said. “That’s when it counts. It’s the simplest flaw that can get you down.”


Winning the Excellence Award means the team will still compete at the VEX World Championship April 23-25 in Louisville, Ky. Grant robotics teacher Rick Lehman said the team won the award based on factors including its performance throughout the season and its superb documenting skills, shown by the fact that the team presented two notebooks when most teams present one.


Keeping the notebooks is the job of McKenzie, the team’s chief documenter. She is starting on her third notebook after packing the first two with goals, solutions, pictures of tournaments, scouting of other teams and more.


“It’s an honor to get that award,” said McKenzie, who called it the “most amazing experience.”


While the competition was stressful, Surgeo said he did his best to stay positive.


“You got to keep your cool and be calm,” he said. Mr. Lehman, who teaches Grant robotics with Kristin Tope, complimented the team on how they handled it.


He said that shows robotics is a lot more than just engineering.


“I just think this entire program is an example of how we are teaching the whole student,” he said. “There is a social and emotional component. There’s a lot of values beyond robotics concepts."


He mentioned skills students learn like organization, stress management and impulse control. That’s added onto the problem solving skills that are essential to all careers.


While team members were disappointed in losing finals, Mr. Lehman said he believes they will turn it into a positive.


“They are going to go to Worlds to win,” he said.


Surgeo agreed and talked about how his team’s new goal is to complete 160 workshop hours between now and the VEX World Championship.


“We are tired of going to World and getting our butt kicked,” he said. “We want to be competitive. We all made a schedule, planned out each week. We need to make sure we are prepared.”


That preparation includes making spare parts so they can be prepared for any problems that they may encounter. Surgeo said that will help because they can swap out parts more easily.


Surgeo, who plans to stay active in robotics when he goes to Harding next school year, said he’s learned valuable lessons about dedication and teamwork while participating in Grant’s robotics program. He complimented his robotics teachers for motivating him to not only succeed in robotics but in his schoolwork as well.