Robotics Team Heading to Worlds


Robotics Team Heading to Worlds


A brand new robotics team at Saint Bernard School in Uncasville has earned a spot in the largest robotics competition in the world.

The Saints are the only team from southeastern Connecticut to qualify for a spot in the VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas, in April.

The three-day competition is the final tournament of the VEX Robotics competition season. Winning teams from around the world will gather to compete April 25-27.

Teams have to be invited to attend, based on their performance at previous competitions. More than 2,900 teams from 40 countries participate in World’s.

“The idea that our team, which is fairly new, got an invite to one of these competitions with all these really experienced teams was very exciting,” said Blake Murray, a sophomore on the team.

Saints Robotics made its competition debut in October.

“At the beginning of the year I thought we’d have a good learning experience,” said Ann Marie Jakubielski, Saint Bernard’s computer science teacher and technology coordinator who moderates the robotics club. “I thought at best we’d do some tournaments around here.”

But the Saints have done much more.

In March, the team also competed by invitation with teams from all over the country in the US CREATE Open in Iowa.

Robotics is brand new this year at the Catholic secondary school largely because of sophomore student William O’Donnell who previously competed on a successful robotics team when he lived in Nebraska.

“I love robotics so much. I thought that if I loved it that much, other people would like it too,” O’Donnell said. “I wanted others to have that experience of going to competition and having fun.”

His experience, along with funding Saint Bernard School received last year from Montville Education Foundation and Mohegan Sun, enabled the robotics program to get off the ground.

In VEX robotics, each competition features engineering challenges to be completed by the robots which students build and program.

VEX Robotics Competition is played on a 12’x12’ square field. Two alliances – one “red” and one “blue” – composed of two teams each, compete in matches consisting of a 15-second autonomous period, followed by a one minute and forty-five second driver controlled period.

The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing alliance by scoring discs in goals, owning rollers, and covering field tiles at the end of the match.

By its nature, the study of competitive robotics not only encompasses all four pillars of STEM education, but also encourages important life skills like teamwork, communication, and project-based organization.

“The kids are having fun and learning a lot,” Jakubielski said. “You get the rules and field, and the rest is up to you.”