Peck Elementary School fourth-graders Dean Jared and Amaan Ahmed, and fifth-grader Sage Dothar test out the robots after school Jan. 18.

Peck Elementary School fourth-graders Dean Jared and Amaan Ahmed, and fifth-grader Sage Dothar test out the robots after school Jan. 18.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Peck students to host Vex IQ Challenge Jan. 27

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published January 23, 2018

 On Jan. 18, Peck Elementary School students gathered to test and continue working on their robotics in preparation for a competition. From left are fifth-grader Nathan Gossett, fourth-grader Darrius Summers, fifth-graders Jacob Campagne and Brandon Roberts, and fourth-grader Mass Kah.

On Jan. 18, Peck Elementary School students gathered to test and continue working on their robotics in preparation for a competition. From left are fifth-grader Nathan Gossett, fourth-grader Darrius Summers, fifth-graders Jacob Campagne and Brandon Roberts, and fourth-grader Mass Kah.

Photo by Deb Jacques

WARREN — Robots will take over Peck Elementary School Jan. 27 when the Peck Engineering Leaders host the Vex IQ robotics challenge from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Vex IQ Challenge is an opportunity for robotics students from local schools to compete in challenges using their robots, display their robotics skills and meet students from other schools. 

The Vex competition includes local, regional, state and national qualifying rounds. At competitions, the students earn points to advance to the next level. The Jan. 27 Vex IQ Challenge is a local competition, and members of the public are welcome to attend and cheer on their favorite team. Peck is part of Center Line Public Schools.

A total of 18 teams from metro Detroit schools are expected to be at Saturday’s event. If any teams drop out, Peck has a waiting list to bring in other teams. 

The Peck Engineering Leaders after-school robotics program began three years ago, and it currently consists of 24 fourth- and fifth-grade students. For several weeks, the students have met for 90 minutes after school on Mondays and Thursdays to build their robots and prepare for competitions. Students go through an application process to be accepted into the program. 

Teachers Marjorie Wemyss, Jamie Watterson and Yvonne Beauchaine are the advisors of the program, which includes six robots. Each robot kit — which looks similar to Lego — costs $400 and contains gears, speakers, sensors, motors, wires, bricks and a controller.

“There is a basic model, and the students build off of that based on what they think will work,” Beauchaine said, adding that she and the advisors would love to add more robots and more students. 

The Peck students work together in teams of four, and this year’s teams include Extreme Team, Android Engineers, Taco Turtles, the Vex Engineers, Vex Masters, and the Outstanding Engineers. The students work on their engineering, math, building and physics skills and find out what works and what doesn’t work with their robots. According to the students, they also learn patience.

“This has opened up a field they didn’t consider. It’s opened up a new world,” said Beauchaine, who noted that parents have been very supportive of the program. 

Fifth-graders Savannah Rietz and Isabella D’Agostino are on the Android Engineers. Rietz said each team member has a specific job: writer, task manager, builder and parts manager. The team members rotate the positions so each student learns a different task. Rietz especially likes to be the task manager.

“You get to play the field,” she said. 

At Saturday’s competition, the students will be required to use their robots to move different colored rings from one area of the field to another while earning points. At the competition, the students will compete against other teams and will even form alliances with teams from other schools. 

“They build some good communication skills with people they don’t know,” Beauchaine said. “It’s always exciting to watch them do that.”

Fourth-grader Khang Nguyen and fifth-graders Nathan Gossett, Jacob Campagne and Daren Szczepaniak make up the Extreme Team, and they had different reasons for joining the robotics program. 

“I want to get into engineering,” Szczepaniak said, adding that parts manager is his favorite job. “I like getting the parts for the builder to get on the robot.”

Gossett’s favorite job is to build the robot and to modify what is needed.

“When I was young, I got a lot of the Lego kits,” he said. “This is more high-tech.”

On Dec. 2, the Peck Engineering Leaders participated in a robotics competition at the Nissan Technical Center of North America in Farmington Hills. The robotics students also toured the facility. 

“It was fun,” Gossett said. “There were a lot of bigger robots.”

Peck is located at 11300 Engleman Road in Warren. To make a donation toward the program’s funding, call Peck at (586) 510-2600 and ask for Principal Julian Roper.