By Jeff Harrison
Noble Local School District
Shenandoah High School is going to the World Championships.
Not exactly a sentence you read every day, but that will be the case when Shenandoah has a team competing in the 2022 VEX Robotics World Championships at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.
Shenandoah’s team 43779Z (aka “Error 404”)- under the guidance of STEM Teacher/Coach Jarvis Huck – consisting of seniors Joey Crum and Julius Kirk along with freshman Andrew Neff.will compete May 5-7 in Dallas.
Achieving a “first” at Shenandoah has sparked a sense of pride in the team.
“Shenandoah has never experienced this before and it’s pretty amazing to be the first ones to do it here,” said Crum, the primary spokesman for the trio who shares the robot driving responsibilities with Kirk.“We’ve worked as hard as we could and accomplished it…we made it!”.
“I’m pretty excited about it and I’m looking forward to representing Shenandoah,” echoed Neff, the behind-the-scenes “quarterback” of the team who handles the technical aspects of programming beforehand and adjusting on the fly during competitions. He also gives the team an extra set of eyes on what needs to be done and how much time remains.
Huck pointed out here’s mostly there for moral support because the “coach” is unable to offer instruction during the actual competition, but credits his team for going above and beyond in their preparation
“I’m basically a cheerleader at the competition,” he said, “and sometimes I get so nervous I can’t even watch.
“I’m very proud of the commitment they’ve shown,” Huck noted. “They probably put in 20 to 25 hours after school and on the weekend before the state competition and they’ve done a lot of work getting ready for ‘Worlds’ as well.”
The team started its journey hosting the Shenandoah VEX Robotics Competition Blended Robotics Tournament, an event which featured 18 teams from six schools.
Next came league competition at Zane State College.where the 43779Z/Error 404 team finished first in Skills Competition to qualify for the state tournament.
“When we set out at the beginning of the year, our goal was to make it to the state competition because we hadn’t made it that far,” said Huck, noting that this is only the third year for Robotics at Shenandoah while some schools have had 10 years experience or more. “Once we did, we looked at the ‘skills’ rankings and felt if we could improve a little on that, we might have a chance to go (to the ‘Worlds’).
“From the time we qualified for the state, we hammered out our driving and programming to get our skill score up,” Huck continued.
During that three-week preparatory period, the guys did a rebuild of the team’s robot.
“We re-did the back and the whole drive train and added two pneumatic tanks,” said Crum. “Anything we could do to make it quicker and more reliable so we’re able to get more points.”
The rebuild also included increasing from the original set-up of four motors to six (the maximum allowed is eight).
The World skills rankings include 4,285 teams (818 will be competing at the World Championships) and Shenandoah is listed 129th, including 16th among teams from Ohio and the team was 24th overall in the state competition, The skills score – accomplished on the team’s third and final attempt – resulted in a “wild card” invitation to Dallas.
“After the first two attempts didn’t work out, we worked on it at the hotel, ran one practice time and everything went well on our third attempt,” said Crum. “Doing well in skills shows how good your robot really is because the pairings for qualification matches are randomly generated so you don’t know if you’ll get paired up with a good team or not.
“I told Julius when we were waiting to compete ‘you watch, we’re going to get this on the first try,’” he recalled. “We did it with ease, so I told Mr. Huck ‘I guess we perform well under pressure!’”
Coach Huck’s input has been invaluable to the team.
“He pushes us to our limits,” said Crum. “There have been times I’ve been pretty upset with how things were going and wanted to walk out, but he encourages us to keep going.
“He’s able to help us when we don’t understand what’s going wrong and helps us solve the problem.” he added.
“He never gives up, so we don’t want to give up, either,” offered Neff. “He also makes us feel like family.”
Also crediting Huck for his beyond the call of duty work was NLSD Superintendent Dan Leffingwell.
“Woody Hayes is known for saying ‘You win with people’ and Jarvis Huck is certainly a rock star in that regard,” said Leffingwell. “He is very dedicated and involved both in and out of the classroom and we’re very appreciative of all of his efforts.
“We wish the entire robotics team the best at the World Championships,” he added.
It didn’t take long for the team’s fundraising efforts to take off.
In fact, the entire trip was fully funded by the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Program’s generous donation of $15,000.
“When we found out we qualified, we made a list of local businesses we thought might be interested in helping to sponsor us and we had two groups contact me almost immediately that they would cover the cost of everything which was just amazing.
“The money from everyone else who donated will be put into an account to give us funds if we make it back to ‘Worlds’ next year,” he added. “It’s great to have the support of the community because we’re not only representing Shenandoah, we’re representing Noble County.”
A host of other sizable contributions (gold sponsors) came in, including $2,500 from Steve Zimmerman of Zimmerman School Equipment, Inc; and $1,000 each from Jason Graham of Graham Excavating, Justin Wells of Wells Automation LLC and Dennis Crock of Caldwell Food Center.
Other donations ranging from $500 to $100 included (silver sponsors) International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 972, P.C. Systems Inc., MicroMachine Works, The Fraternal Order of Eagles, Craig Sebring, Dave and Nellie Easterling, Randy and Emily Lowe; (bronze sponsors) MK Trucking, Sue Snode/State Farm Insurance, Tom and Rebecca Ferguson Foundation, Boyd Precision Painting LLC, Englefield Oil Company, Seneca Insurance, Forshey Airpix LLC, Noble County Cruzers and Farmers & Merchants Bank.
The in-house fundraiser was extremely well received, too, with 188 shirts bearing the team’s logo printed in the school’s “Fab Lab” which netted an additional $1,500.
Huck said the team will proudly carry the Noble County flag to carry during the Opening Ceremony.
“The support we’ve received has been outstanding,” said Crum.”It means so much to us to know everyone is behind us.”
In addition to Coach Huck and the three members of the qualifying team, the 11-person Shenandoah contingent which departs on Monday, May 2 will include the three members of the Zeps’ other team which also competed in the state event – 43779E/Doah Boyz – senior Manny Laureano, sophomore Sam Carpenter and freshman Emily Welch; Shenandoah STEM teacher Mike Legats and chaperones Mindy Neff, Troy Neff and Jennifer Welch.
The 2022 VEX Robotics World Championship presented by Northrop Grumman Foundation is presented by the Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation. It offers the robotics community a chance to celebrate STEM excellence and compete in heart-pounding competition matches with student-led teams running from Elementary to University level showcasing their game strategy, design and teamwork skills.
This season’s game competition is called “Tipping Point”. Teams have to move mobile goals into their Alliance Zone and stack rings on the goals for extra points. Goals can be scored either on the ground level or elevated on the Alliance Platform. Teams must program their robots for a 15-second autonomous period and a one-minute, 45-second driver period.
The REC Foundation’s mission is to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on, affordable, and sustainable robotics engineering programs.
“As an experienced robotics mentor, I’ve seen firsthand the engineering skill and leadership expertise that students gain by participating in the VEX Robotics Competition,” said Dan Mantz, CEO of the REC Foundation. “It’s an experience that will stay with them long after their school days are over, offering a new appreciation for STEM and laying a strong foundation of critical problem-solving, communication and teamwork skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.”
The event will air live on YouTube on the following link: https://www.vexworlds.tv/#/?channel=z9evotcv3ir25iu2exfo , with the time schedule yet to be announced.