The season finally came to an end for Lego robotics Team Vortex, which took part in the First Lego League robotics competition’s qualifying round on Jan. 18, and the district round on Feb. 1.
In its third year of existence – although the team name and numbers vary each year as children graduate out and others join – the group of 10 children age 10 to 15 years old, most of whom are from Parker County, brought home a few more trophies after their most recent success.
At the qualifying round – one of several across the district which had 264 teams – the team recovered from a slow start to take first place out of the 35 teams from cities around the area, including even Stephenville, Burleson and Flower Mound.
Each team was judged in four categories: robot design, core values, a presentation of their findings related to natural disasters and also the robot games.
The team presented the first three portions of the competition to judges, leaving each one with a degree of confidence in their presentations.
But when they came to show the capabilities of their robot in the games – in which the device has to complete as many tasks on a table as possible in 2 minutes and 30 seconds –they struggled in their first two attempts. After the first two rounds, the team was ranked 12 of the 35.
In the third and last run, they scored high enough to move them to fifth place for the robot games. That rank combined with their high scores from their presentations gave them the championship.
“I didn’t think we’d get first,” said 14-year-old Joseph Tyer, who has been on the team for all three years.
But even with that top spot, which sent them and the other seven highest scoring teams to the district level, the team thought they could do better.
“The students were pleased with all of their work today,” head coach Curtis Tyer said after the qualifying round. “Except they felt they could do better on the robot [games].”
After only two weeks, during which the team made several adjustments to their robotics missions, they got the chance to show how much better they could do as they went on to round two of the competition. There they competed with 56 teams for the top spot and right to go to the next level in St. Louis.
Teams traveled from as far away as cities such as Texarkana, Paris and Stephenville to compete.
Again, Team Vortex started off slowly as their first of four tries in the robotics portion of the competition put them in 51st place. After their third attempt they had improved to 21st.
But in their fourth and final run they achieved almost the highest score their robot design would allow, giving them the second highest score for the robot games. Combined with the other scores from their presentations, they ended the day in Dallas with third place in the district.
Tyer referred to his group as the comeback team after they went from 51st to 2nd in the robotics portion.
Matthew Dena, 13, said they tried not to let the first round discourage them too much since they knew they had three more tries.
Though they did not do well enough to take first, Dena said they were pleased with their accomplishment.
“We did good,” Dena said. “We did our best; the other team just did better.”
Paul and Stacy Chavez, who had two children on the team , said next year they hope to start a second local team and that getting to help coach and attend the competition was a great experience.
“We are overjoyed their hard work paid off,” Stacy said.
Stacy, who was deployed to Afghanistan for a time just before Christmas, said she was honored when the team decided to honor her unit by including the unit’s patch on the sleeves of the shirts they designed for the team.
After the first competition, she sent the results to the rest of her unit still in Afghanistan, who also expressed their gratitude for the support.