One of Platte County High School’s qualifiers for the VEX Robotics World Championship competed on perhaps the biggest stage possible.
Team 9065C, known as Phantom Robotics, navigated through qualification matches, an elimination bracket and a round robin to reach the world finals. Platte County’s Alex Harms, Parker Johnson, Zach Lienemann, Matthew Phillips, Trent Phillips, Wesley Valentine, and Will Valentine ended up as runners-up out of 600 teams competing April 25-29 in Louisville, Ky.
In the final, the alliance including Platte County’s Team 9065C experienced connectivity issues and a tipped robot, unable to win the world championship.
“The funny thing was that we actually beat that same alliance in the round robin, so we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t end up beating them in the championship,” said Will Valentine, a senior. “Despite this, we wouldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams that we would have made it as far as we did.”
Each year, VEX Robotics establishes a game for programs around the world.
Students then design robots to meet the challenge provided, and more than 17,000 teams in 40 countries use them in competitions. VEX Robotics offers “a hands-on, sustainable, and cost-effective approaches to help engage young people and maintain their interest in (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through elementary school, middle school, high school, and beyond.”
Platte County advanced two teams to nationals in this year’s game Starstruck, which consists of two-minute matches between alliances with the robots competing in a 12-foot by 12-foot arena. The alliances battle to have the robots throw 24 yellow stars and 4 orange cubes across a fence in the middle into two separate scoring zones.
Points are totaled based on where the stars and cubes end up at the end of 2 minutes with other bonus point opportunities also available.
The 600 teams are split into six divisions with each division competing in a separate tournament. Team 9065C placed seventh in qualification matches in the “Math Division” while playing with randomly selected alliances, which is a grouping of three different teams.
Platte County’s Team 9065P of Grant Albright, Becca Beall, Nathan Gurgens, Logan Helman, Evan McPhatter and Henry Reinsch placed 20th in the “Science Division.”
Eight alliances in each division advance to bracket play, which establishes chosen alliances for the remainder of the competition. Platte County’s Team 9065C was a captain and chose a team from China and a team from Canada, while Platte County’s Team 9065P was not chosen for an alliance and did not get to compete in bracket play.
In the remaining matches, only two teams play in each match with teams taking turns sitting out.
Team 9065C’s alliance was seeded sixth but won the Math Division title to advance to the championship round robin where they ended up earning the No. 1 seed, advancing to play the No. 2 seed in the world final. The competition featured laser-show introductions and music over the loud speakers.
Only two teams from the United States were part of the two alliances in the final, giving Team 9065C a huge sense of accomplishment for just reaching the final.
“We did still win the round robin and were extremely grateful to be one of the final six teams to compete in this year’s Vex game. Our experience at Vex Worlds was truly unforgettable, and we felt proud to represent Platte County at such a high level on a world stage, as well as giving our program such an elite status within the VEX community.”
Platte County’s robotics program has existed for the past decade but only competed in VEX for the past three. VEX Robotics World Championship holds the Guinness world record for the largest robotics competition.
CBS Sports will be airing a documentary from this year’s Vex Worlds on June 11, a film that will include interviews with Will and Wesley Valentine from Platte County’s finalist team. Will Valentine said CBS might also come to the school before the documentary airs for a closer look at Platte County’s program.
“Being a world championship finalist is an accomplishment that most schools can only dream of, and something that we would never had believed possible for our organization to achieve in such a short time,” Will Valentine said.