VEX Robotics World Championship Report

Posted 5 May 2009 at 21:04 UTC (updated 5 May 2009 at 23:49 UTC) by steve Share This

It all started when Tom Atwood of Robot Magazine asked me to attend the VEX Robotics World Championship to shoot photos of the more than 270 teams from around the world competing in the event. Before I even knew what happened, I found myself enlisted as one of the judges for the event. Judging the small contests held by local robot groups can be a lot of work but it pales in comparison to the efforts needed for something like the VEX championship. Read on for the full story.

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The VEX Championship pit area

The judging panel itself varied between 10 and 15 indivduals over the course of the three day event. In addition to the judges, there were dozens of others acting as referees, score keepers, and doing data entry to feed information to the judges. At any given moment there were usually 16 or more teams involved in at least four matches. The scores only form part of the input for the judging. Several of the judges spent their entire days in private meetings with each team to evaluate their engineering notebooks and robots. Other judges, including myself, spent their days wandering through the pit area, talking to members of each team, asking questions about their robot, team structure, engineering approach, and other questions.

One of the VEX matches in the main arena.

By the time a team was recommend for an award, they had often been interviewed by multiple groups of judges several times. Even so, I had my doubts going in that this subjective approach could really pick the best candidates. My doubts were dispelled as the scores from the matches began rolling and we fequently saw the same teams who stood out in the subject analysis of the pit judges climbing in the competition scores as well. What this meant to me is that the teams with good communications, well defined engineering strategies, and good ideas also tended to build winning robots.

Blue is the preferred hair color of future roboticists

But enough about the judging, what was the VEX Championship like? Blue hair and pirate costumes seemed to be the most popular fashions among teams. But there were also plenty of mohawks, fauxhawks, and colorful regional garb from around the world. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many girls on the teams. Engineering and robotics is no longer a male-only field.Each match consists of four teams playing in pairs. Two blue teams work together against two red teams. The robot must acquire red or blue foam blocks and deposit them in one of three types of containers to gain points. Unlike many high-school level events, the VEX contest is not just another remote-control vehicle contest. While the majority of each match is spent with the robots in teleoperated mode, the contest emphasizes autonomy as a goal of building robots. The robots must operate autonomously for a portion of time at the begining each match. Robots that are capable of scoring autonomously give the teams a much better chance of winning. There is also a college level contest in which only autonomous action is allowed but the vast majority of time is spent with the middle and high school level matches.

Pirates, robots, and Mountain Dew warriors

The first day of the event is spent in practice and preparation. Each team must have their robot inspected by officials to verify that it meets the rules. Teams then spend most of their time running the robots on the test fields in test matches as they fine tune the operation and work out bugs. The next two days are spent in elimination matches and eventually playoffs to find the winners. There are also various breaks in the matches to present awards.

A Chinese team accepting a Judges' Award

If you like to see more of the event, don't worry, I shot more photos that you could possibly ever want and posted about half of them on flickr, so go ahead and have a look at the VEX Robotics World Championship photo gallery. Lindsey Carlin sent us a copy of the press release with the offical info on the winners of the this year's VEX Robotics World Championship, for those who are curious, read on to find out who won. If you'd like more detail match results, see the VEX Robotics World Championship results page, which also includes some video of the events.

Massachusetts & California High School Teams Dominate VEX Robotics Competition World Championship

International Competition Stimulates Students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math through Competitive Robotics Challenges

Dallas, Texas – May 4, 2008 – Innovation First International, creators of the VEX Robotics Competition World Championship, today announced that teams from Champs Charter High School, Crowther home school and El Camino Real High School were crowned as the world champion winning alliance. Nearly 300 hundred elite VEX teams from middle schools, high schools and university campuses from around the world competed at the Dallas Convention Center on May 1-2 with robots they built using the VEX Robotics Design System.

The teams triumphed executing the game “Elevation”, applying their programming skills and strategic thinking to defeat the opposition. The tournament was designed as a vehicle for students to develop critical life skills such as teamwork, leadership and project management, honed through building robots and competing with like-minded students from around the world in a fun, non-traditional environment. “We are committed to providing opportunities such as this worldwide competition to further motivate kids to be passionate about science and technology,” said Jason Morrella, senior director of education and competition for Innovation First International. “Our goal is to have these students apply the knowledge they acquire with VEX robotics to real-world challenges.”

The VEX Robotics Competition World Championship, the most esteemed VEX robotics competition, hosted teams from 10 countries including Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, Korea, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, for two days of non-stop pulse-pounding robotics challenges. Dennis Nevsky, the SPUR-FLYS captain from Champs Charter High School, one of the teams from the winning alliance said, “Competing with and against teams from around the world was an incredible opportunity and really fun. The competition was fierce but we triumphed because our alliance of three teams communicated as if we were one and we played off of each others strengths to defeat our competitor.”

“The winning alliance exhibited amazing teamwork and problem-solving skills in the final matches,” continued Morrella. “A lot of time and creativity went into the design of their robots and we congratulate them for their outstanding strategic thinking and engineering skills.” In addition to the robotics tournament, the Excellence Award was presented for the top overall robotics programs. Winner of the high school Excellence award was Team 1114a, the Simbotics from Governor Simcoe Secondary School in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. The winner of the Middle School Excellence Award was Team 2243a, Cybergenetic from Cupeyville Middle School in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, sponsored by PRIOR. They were one of 46 participating Middle School teams.

Innovation First International also premiered the pilot college challenge at this year’s VEX Robotics Competition World Championship, marking its first competitive robotics program geared towards college students. The winning team from the college division was Massey University of New Zealand. “We are so excited that the VEX platform now applies to university students and we are honored to have won the college challenge pilot season,” said Maurice Tipene, Massey University team captain. “One of the best parts of this experience is that we successfully used the VEXnet 802.11 wireless system, which doesn’t require the use of crystals or cables and enables an endless number of robots to operate simultaneously.”

Partnering with Innovation First, Inc. as presenting co-sponsors were returning supporters Autodesk Inc., NASA and FUTURE Foundation, as well as first-time supporters EMC, SolidWorks and iD Tech Camps. Massey University of New Zealand School of Engineering and Advanced Technology also offered participating students the opportunity to apply for the chance to win one $5,000 scholarship towards their first year fees for a Massey Engineering degree.

Students competed playing the game Elevation, along with corresponding Programming Skills Challenges and Robot Skills Challenges that were incorporated to further stretch the competitive imagination of teams. “In addition to these in-person competitions, three Online Design Challenges pitted competitors against each other who submitted virtual entries via the internet,” concluded Morrella. The VEX Robotics Competition World Championship culminated with Innovation Fist International unveiling the 2009 - 2010 VEX Robotics Competition game Clean Sweep. Registration for the 2009-2010 season is now open and game objects for Clean Sweep are available. For more detailed information about the new game visit VEX Clean Sweep.

More information about the VEX Robotics World Championship is available at

About Innovation First International Innovation First International, a privately held corporation, was founded on the belief that innovation very early in the design process is necessary to produce simple and elegant product designs. Innovation First began producing electronics for unmanned mobile ground robots, and is now an industry leader in the hobby, competition, education and toy markets. The company’s award winning VEX Robotics Design System, HEXBUG Micro Robotic Creatures and IFI Robotics span the education, consumer and business-to-business markets. Leveraging the company’s core competency in electrical and mechanical engineering, the RackSolutions division works closely with all major computer OEMs to provide custom mounting solutions and industry-wide rack compatibility for data installations of all sizes. The company’s United States operations include an advanced in-house metal fabrication plant, distribution center, and office located together in a 13 acre complex in Greenville, Texas. Poised to continue on a rapid growth path, the company also operates a sales office and distribution center in Warrington, United Kingdom. Please visit for additional information.

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Great Article about VEX worlds, posted 5 May 2009 at 22:06 UTC by lynca » (Journeyer)

I was there with Rice University and we had a great time. I hope more universities participate in VEX college challenge next year.

Its a great low-cost way to get into a robotics competition.

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