Team Sandy Creek A Wins NNY VEX Robotics Competition Advancing to VEX Worlds in April

The A-Team from Sandy Creek along with their alliance, Freezing Code from Oswego, finished in first place at the Northern New York VEX Skyrise State Robotics Championship, advancing them to the 2016 VEX Worlds on April 20-23, in Louisville, Kentucky.

The team from Sandy Creek High School finished in first place at the Northern New York VEX State Robotics Championship. Kneeling in front are Oren McDougal and Logan Hatch. In back, from left: Sandy Creek Superintendent Stewart Amell, robotics coach John DeGone, Andrew Olin, T.J. Harding, Zeke Durham, and Sandy Creek High School Principal Maureen Shiel.
The team from Sandy Creek High School finished in first place at the Northern New York VEX State Robotics Championship. Kneeling in front are Oren McDougal and Logan Hatch. In back, from left: Sandy Creek Superintendent Stewart Amell, robotics coach John DeGone, Andrew Olin, T.J. Harding, Zeke Durham, and Sandy Creek High School Principal Maureen Shiel.

Members of the Sandy Creek A-Team include: captain Andrew Olin; programmer Oren McDougal; scout T.J. Harding; driver Logan Hatch; and team scribe/record keeper Zeke Durham.

The team is coached by Sandy Creek technology teacher John DeGone.

“The Sandy Creek School District has been very supportive of the robotics program throughout its inception,” said DeGone. “I have been blessed with a supportive superintendent and administration that value problem solving, critical thinking, and the practical application of mathematics and sciences.”

“John came to me over a year ago and we discussed the future of robotics here at Sandy Creek,” said Sandy Creek Superintendent of Schools Stewart Amell. “I was very excited to hear he was interested in starting a program. We provided him and his students the resources and then they win the NNY State Championship his first year! I’m ecstatic for him and his students. They have worked very hard after school until the late night hours preparing for this competition.”

DeGone acknowledged the time and dedication of the team in getting to this point.

Sandy Creek VEX Robotics champions from left: coach John DeGone, T.J. Harding, Logan Hatch, Oren McDougal, Andrew Olin and Zeke Durham.
Sandy Creek VEX Robotics champions from left: coach John DeGone, T.J. Harding, Logan Hatch, Oren McDougal, Andrew Olin and Zeke Durham.

One member, Olin, alone has clocked more than 300 hours of time working on the Sandy Creek robot. He is a senior at Sandy Creek High School and will pursue a degree in Aerospace Engineering beginning next fall at Rochester Institute of Technology.

In its first year of competitive robotics the team from Sandy Creek have been immersed into the role of mechanical engineers. During their design and modification process, each team member kept individual engineering notebooks where they made entries that might include a sketch or picture of what has been designed or modified along with an explanation as to how the proposed design will work or why a modification was needed.

The students then collaborated on a team notebook that catalogs the history of the team and the design process of the competitive robot build.

To prepare for the VEX competitions, the students, designed, built, and programmed their robots from the ground up and then went head-to-head in tournaments and challenges.

This year’s theme, the “Nothing But Net” challenge was played in a competition arena by scoring colored balls in high and low goals, and additional points could be earned by elevating the robot in a designated climbing zone.

New to the competitive robotics stage, the team started seven months behind their competitors in the season but were grateful to the robotics clubs from Fulton and Rome who offered support and assistance early in the season.

The team learned a C-based programming language called RobotC and learned to write autonomous and driver control programs that are based on time, sensor values and/or the action of a user pressing a button or moving a controller joystick.

Sandy Creek team advances to World Championship in its first year of competitive robotics.
Sandy Creek team advances to World Championship in its first year of competitive robotics.

Most of the programming was self-directed and pointed at solving specific problems the team may not have been able to overcome physically with mechanical parts on the robot, but could be programmed to compensate for these deficiencies.

At the state competition, the team got off to a rocky start with three early losses.

After each match, they made modifications to their coding, with little effect. They discovered a loose connection was causing only partial transfer of the coding to the bot and after fixing that issue, the team went undefeated in the remaining matches.

In the final matches, the top teams formed alliances for the final rounds that would benefit each team and in a strategic political move, Sandy Creek approached the Freezing Code team and formed their final alliance. The two teams went undefeated in the finals, winning the first two matches in a best of three playoff. Both teams will advance to the VEX Worlds.

At the VEX Worlds, the Sandy Creek team will compete against the best of the best robotics teams from around the world.

The event will feature top teams from over 1,000 VEX Robotics tournaments happening in cities around the globe.

More than 30 nations will be represented in this elite competition taking place at the Kentucky Exposition Center.