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Five HMS Robotics Teams Headed to State Competition
FEBRUARY 18, 2020 — Harrison Middle School will be well-represented at the VEX Robotics Arkansas State Championship next month in Russellville, as five teams have qualified for the competition.
Twenty-two Harrison students will be heading to Arkansas Tech University on Thursday, March 5, putting the robots they’ve designed, built and coded over the past several months to their biggest challenge yet. Top performers will advance to the World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, this April.
“This is a huge accomplishment for Harrison Middle School since we have only had a robotics program for four years,” said Carrie Pellerin, a fifth-grade teacher and robotics coach. “None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the Harrison Public Schools Foundation grant that kick-started the program and the Harrison School District administration for its continued support and funding of the program.”
Unlike the last-robot-standing fights showcased on popular television shows, VEX Robotics competitions do not involve head-to-head battling. Entering the arena in pairs, students maneuver their robots around a series of obstacles to score points before the clock runs out. Moving a box onto an elevated platform or getting a ball to a specific part of the course boosts a team’s score, with high totals reigning supreme.
“Robotics engages students in complex, strategic problem-solving and higher-order thinking — a set of skills that is a high priority for 21st century education,” Pellerin said. “By its nature, the study of competitive robotics not only encompasses all four pillars of STEM education — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — it also encourages important life skills like teamwork, communication and project-based organization. We are proud to offer this program at Harrison, and even more proud that these outstanding students will be representing our community in the state competition.”
Harrison Middle School, which serves students in grades 5-8, had teams qualify at two different levels.
Three teams of fifth-graders will represent Harrison in the Elementary School event (grades 3-5), while two more teams will show their skills at the Middle School level (grades 6-8). Each team earned their place in Russellville based on their scores at previous competitions throughout the state.
At the Middle School level, the RoboWarriors (Ty Eddington, Kira Price and Donte Wilson) won the Design Award for the most effective and efficient robot design in a tournament held in Clarksville on January 25. The Elephants (Bradley Rook, Declan Heuer, Aiden Henderson and Grant Bennett) won the Excellence Award as the top all-around team at a local competition in Harrison on December 7.
The Middle School teams are coached by Sherie Hammonds.
In Elementary School events, the IRobots (Benjamin Sutton, Jacob Simon, Abe Seymore and James Owens) won the Excellence Award at North Arkansas College on January 31. The Sporks (Braden Anderson, Wylie Hoppis, Gavin Hobson, Keagan Keener, Carter Roberson and Josh McLean) won a Robot Skills award for excellent programming and driving skills on January 25 in Bentonville, plus a Judge’s Award for special accomplishments at another competition in Russellville on February 8.
A third Elementary School team, the Ghostbusters, received an at-large bid based on their Robot Skills ratings. Emma Garcia, Lily Burns, Grace Jennings, Leela Reed and Delaney Hodges are currently ranked 16th in the state.
Pellerin coaches the Elementary School students.
Harrison Middle School has added a robotics course for students in grades 6-8 during the school day, but it is also offered as an after-school activity for students in grades 5-8. The Middle School-level teams began building their robots in September, while the fifth-graders began construction in November.
About 25 teams originally began assembling robots, though they were consolidated into 11 teams for competition purposes. Each consists of three to six members. Harrison’s teams have already edged out hundreds of others, as only 36 squads in both Middle and Elementary (out of 500-plus in the state) qualified for the March 5 event.
The Robotics program is seeking donations and sponsorships to offset costs associated with the state competition. Checks can be made payable to "Harrison Middle School — Robotics" and can be mailed to or dropped off at the Middle School front office at 1125 Goblin Drive, Harrison, Arkansas, 72601.
"Our students will be proudly representing Harrison and we are asking for your help to make the most out of this educational competition for our teams," Pellerin said. "Not only will the students be competing in the arena; they will also have the opportunity to have a booth and show off Harrison Middle School and how great a community Harrison is."
For more information on the Harrison School District, visit www.harrisongoblins.org.
Elementary School qualifiers, from left to right, are Jacob Simon, Abe Seymore, James Owens, Ben Sutton, Braden Anderson, Keagan Keener, Wylie Hoppis, Carter Roberson, Josh McLean and Gavin Hobson.
Additional Elementary School qualifiers, from left to right, are Emma Garcia, Lily Burns, Grace Jennings, Leela Reed and Delaney Hodges.