VEX IQ Face-off at Cranberry

Cranberry Chronicles staff

The gymnasium at Cranberry Area High School was buzzing with students preparing for a competition, the first VEX IQ tournament for the district. The competition was set up by Dan O’Brien, Technology Education, Science and Social Studies teacher, and Zach Bedee, science teacher, through REC (Robots Education & Competition) Foundation.

A student at CHS sports a VEX wristband to show their involvement in the competition. (Photos by Tyler Comiske and Lindsay Perry/Student contributors)

O’Brien’s 8th grade electronical class competed with robots his students built in a competition called VEX IQ. The name VEX IQ comes from the company that designs and builds parts for robots and was the brand all of the 8th graders used to create the robots.

Students gather to watch the finals round of the competition. (Photos by Tyler Comiske and Lindsay Perry/Student contributors)

Thirteen teams in total from CHS competed against each other and had about five weeks to build their robot and prepare for the competition. Not only did the teams have to prepare, but organizing the event also took some effort. Helping today were numerous teachers and upper-level students who helped run stations, referee, and manage game areas. Tim Heffernan also assisted at this tournament by troubleshooting any and all mechanical issues.

“There are going to be some close matches,” states O’Brien with an excited smile prior to the event.

Students place their robot in the designated starting position and prepare to begin the round. (Photos by Tyler Comiske and Lindsay Perry/Student contributors)

This is a new robotics challenge but the process of the game is very simple. There are 7 individual rounds with 46 matches. Each team must first have its robot inspected from designated teachers. Then, they are able to practice on courses until the competition starts. Next, two teams will be on one field working at the same time to move the “hubs” (orange cones) into designated boxes, knock yellow “hubs” off of a high structure, and hang their robots up on the bar.

“Buster” the robot makes its way into a corner to place a hub and score. (Photos by Tyler Comiske and Lindsay Perry/Student contributors)

Completing all of these tasks result in a certain amount of points. Teams may also park the bots in specific spots for more points, and additional points can be earned by stacking the “hubs” on top of each other. Tasks must be completed in less than one minute. During the match, drivers are to switch between the 35-25 second mark, and every round must start with a new drive so that everyone has a chance to drive the robot. Teams have to also report to the “Skills Field” where they must test the robot’s driving skills and autonomous programming in which they have two attempts to pass, but they must be successful.

One of the robots and controllers used during the competition. (Photos by Tyler Comiske and Lindsay Perry/Student contributors)

After rounds and matches were completed, finals took place. The judges then scored the individual teams to determine the champion.

After the final competition, O’Brien announced the teams that exceeded expectations in areas such as creativity and programming. The Certificate of Creativity went to the “Cybertooth Tigers”; the Certificate of Programming went to “The Robo Cops”; the Judge’s Award for showcasing communication was given to both “The No-Shows” and “The 4 Bust-Them-Gears”; and, lastly, the overall VEX IQ award for the team that was the most dominant team overall was given to “The 4 Best-Them-Gears”.

There were four teams selected by the judges to move on to the next competition which will be held at Redbank Valley High School in February against other schools to qualify for the regional competition. Because the teams worked in alliances, two teams were selected in second place and two were selected for first place. Coming in second were “The No-Shows” and the “Berry Bots.” Finishing in first place were the “Robo Cops” and the “4 Best-Them-Gears”.

As noted by Bedee, “The best part of today’s events was seeing the excitement in students’ faces. When you can grab a student’s attention and spark an interest in STEM, you can’t get any happier as a science teacher.”

Principal Ritt Smith (left) and teacher Zach Bedee discuss the competition in between matches. (Photos by Tyler Comiske and Lindsay Perry/Student contributors)


Danielle Peterson, Tyler Comsike, and Lindsay Perry are students at Cranberry High School and members of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications group.