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Wheeling Park High School To Host Robotics Tournament

Photo Provided - Alex Carnahan-Custer, left, Matt Cox and Trenton Weaver from Wheeling Park High School, and Dillon O’Connell, Jakeim Mosby and Wyatt Rich from Triadelphia Middle School compete in a recent competition at Ripley High School.

WHEELING — Members of robotics teams in Ohio County Schools are coding a path to victory and learning as they prepare and compete against other students across the state.

Now students and their robots from other areas will be heading to Wheeling when Ohio County Schools hosts its first robotics tournament next month.

The event is set to take place Feb. 26 at Wheeling Park High School and is expected to bring in as many as 25 teams from around the Northern Panhandle and as far away as Morgantown, according to school district officials.

Each team has three to five members.

Computer coding is just one skill students learn through robotics, explained Jo Jo Shay, innovation coordinator for Ohio County Schools.

“Our goal as a county is to implement robotics across all levels,” she said. “It’s a great way for them to practice problem solving, collaboration and creativity — skills employers will be looking for when they enter the workforce.”

Robotics teams in West Virginia compete using Vex Robotics kits, and Shay said the school district is planning to purchase additional ones for students.

WPHS physics teacher Luke Shepherd serves as coach for Ohio County’s robotics teams.

Ohio County Schools fields four teams from WPHS, but this year marks the first time middle school teams are competing. Triadelphia and Bridge Street middle schools also have been sending teams to tournaments, and teams are being formed at Wheeling and Warwood middle schools.

This year the theme of the robotics tournaments in West Virginia is “Tipping Point.” Students are charged with building a robot from a kit and programming it to move two goals from the center of the robotics arena to their side of the arena. Extra points are awarded if the robots are able to place rings on the goals, or if they are able to elevate the goals onto a platform.

The high school and middle school students often find themselves competing alongside each other in “an alliance,” and sometimes against each other.

That’s because, during tournament competition, two teams are randomly paired together as one alliance to compete against two other separate teams that have been combined as one.

As a result, a key component of robotics competition is cooperation and communication, according to Shepherd. The combined team members have to speak to one another to explain the strengths and abilities of the robots they have created, and then decide among themselves the best strategy to use the robots to win.

“They are definitely learning engineering skills, and how robotics works,” he said. “They are learning engineering principles in general about power, leverage, and how to problem-solve and troubleshoot. They also are learning about effective communication because they are constantly being teamed with a team from across the state.”

Competitors also must keep a notebook and record all activities and observations regarding their robot. The notebooks also are judged as part of the competition.

Robotics is presently considered by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities as a “club sport” in West Virginia, similar to hockey and lacrosse. The teams have coaches and go to other schools to compete, but are not bound to a schedule, Shepherd explained.

The robotics teams had their first competition in October, and thus far have competed in Brooke County, Parkersburg and Ripley.

Two WPHS teams were aligned at the most recent Ripley tournament to finish second and brought home the first finalist trophy in robotics to Ohio County Schools.

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