VEX Robotics update

The following is a wrap-up of the last few weeks of competition for Notre Dame's middle- and upper-school VEX Robotics teams.

Six Notre Dame upper-school teams competed at the VEX Robotics Michigan State Championship on February 25. The event originally was scheduled for Lansing, but due to flooding had to be move to Grandville, Mich., at the last minute.

VEX Robotics (VRC) is for small metal robots designed, built and programmed by small groups of students. All six of the NDP teams that attended were new to VRC this year, and making it to states was a big accomplishment. 

"In the high school division team 33T (Nic Genord, Santiago Plazas, Josh Samuels, and Tommy Joppich) finished ranked 14th, and team 33K (Evan Melucci, Evaristo Garcia, and Cooper Isham) scored 110 points in skills, the team's highest score of the season," said Jerry Palardy, a school parent and one of the school's robotics mentors. "Not bad for their 1st year!"

All four middle school teams also advanced to the playoffs, according to Palardy. Team 3333B (Payton Beckman, Joe Lasota, Aaron Palardy, and Jackson Plas) was ranked second and was an alliance captain who who ended up picking 3333Z (Trevor Rowe, Joe Schiefer and Sean Chaiyasate) to be their alliance partner. 

Team 3333Y (Jaimie Krankel, Manath Mohindra, and John Jernigan) also was an alliance captain and picked 3333J (Josh Lyijynen, Jonathan Hubbard, and Lee Lindsey) to be their alliance partner. Both alliances did well, but were knocked out after some controversial calls by the referees. Team 3333Y won the Build Award for their well-constructed robot. Team 3333B took second place in the Skills category, getting a score of 131. 

One last shot at worlds

Palardy said that although all of the school's teams did outstanding, especially for their first year, a couple of the teams felt that they could have won states and advanced to the world championship if it hadn't been for a couple unlucky breaks. 

"But instead of giving up and letting the season come to an end, the kids decided to try get to worlds as a 'wildcard,'" said Palardy. "In VEX, teams that are ranked in the top 15 in the world, based on their skills scores will be invited to worlds. There are over 2000 middle-school VRC teams, so being ranked in the top 15 is no easy feat." 

Skills scores are obtained by both driving and programming the robot to perform certain tasks. One robot is on the field during a skills match, unlike regular matches where two robots compete against two other robots that are all in the field at the same time. 

"To improve their skills rankings, our teams would need to compete at a special 'skills-only' event two weeks after states," added Palardy. "Teams 3333B and 3333Y decided to take the challenge, which meant they would need to make changes to their robots and bring their programming and driving to a whole new level."

The two weeks of hard work paid off and team 3333Y finished 4th in the world, team 3333B finished 13th, which was enough for both teams to advance to the VEX World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, in April. 

"Not only did they advance, but they learned a lot of new programming techniques in a very short time," said Palardy. "I'm very proud of them!"

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at