Robot Overlords Anna Walton, 13, and Gabriel Ulibarri, 14. Photo by Jim Headley

Only 30 teams from Arizona are going to the 2019 VEX Robotics Worlds Championship, and five of them are from Maricopa.

Anna Walton, 13, and Gabriel Ulibarri, 14, both of Maricopa, have qualified for the VEX VRC World Championships in the high school division. The two are not associated with one of the large school programs, like most of the participants in the event, but rather are home schooled.

There are only seven high school teams attending the championships from Arizona.

Ulibarri is a freshman, and Walton is an eighth grader. They are coached by Gabriel’s mother, Michelle Ulibarri, and Anna’s father, Jason Walton. The two have competed together in VEX Robotics four years in the elementary and middle school divisions.

The two will begin competition next Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky, and their team name is the Robot Overlords.

“There is a specific game that they are designing to play this year,” said Michelle Ulibarri. “They know what the game is, then they need to build the robot to accomplish the task. They play with a teammate and they play against teammates. They are only given the parts and the task. They have to come up with how to accomplish that on their own.”

Legacy School in Maricopa qualified two middle school and one elementary team for the VEX Robotics Championship and there is another elementary team qualified from Maricopa.

The competitive high school division of the VEX Robotics World Championship will take place at the Kentucky Exposition Center with 500 teams from around the world compete for the title, including the Robot Overlords.

The Robot Overlords will be placed into an alliance with another team at Worlds and then take on two other teams on the “field” at the same time.

The object is to see how many points can be gathered while attempting to hinder the other side from getting points. The competition is not a robot battle, though there can be some minor contact between the robots.

Teams are scored on pre-programed (autonomous mode) and live remote-controlled competitions. The participants must program the remote control to work with their robot. The students program the robot and the remote by writing computer code in C++.

The teams build their robots for the competition and most of the teams are much larger than the homeschooled Robot Overlords. Teams are usually from well-funded schools.

“There will be 500-plus high school teams from across the world competing,” Anna said. “The teams are however big you are. They can be one person. There are some teams from Arizona going that have 15 kids on one robot because they’re from a school.”

They leave Sunday evening for Kentucky as the competition starts Wednesday and wraps up on Saturday.

The two have no prediction about how well they might do at the world competition, but Gabriel did say, “better than average.”

Anna said it will be very interesting because they could be paired with a Chinese team, and they have to figure out how to communicate with each other, let alone compete in an alliance against two other teams.

“Google Translate is going to be our friend,” Anna said.

Photo by Jim Headley

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