Peck students engineer their own robots

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published February 8, 2016


WARREN — A group of Peck Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders recently showed their engineering skills when they participated in the Vex Robotics Competition Jan. 30 at the Nissan headquarters in Farmington Hills.

The competition, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, is a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activity for middle school and high school students ages 11-18.

The Peck Vex Team formed a robotics club and built and programed its own robots using controllers similar to those from a video game console to maneuver the robots in the competition’s Vex IQ Bank Shot challenge. They have been building their robots since November.

Three teams of four Peck students participated in the event with advisors and third-grade teacher Yvonne Beauchaine and second-grade teacher Margie Wemyss. This marked the first year that Peck has participated in Vex. Peck is part of Center Line Public Schools.

In the Bank Shot challenge, the students programmed their robots to remove plastic balls off ramps to get a point. The teams also could earn one point each by  dropping a ball over the fence. For each ball they shot into a basket, three points were given. Each Peck team competed in seven or eight matches. At the competition, the students were paired up with teams from other schools.

“We partnered with alliances that would work with our teams to gain points,” Beauchaine said. “It’s for kids to meet different kids and talk about their objectives. It was truly kid-driven.”

On competition day, there were practice matches, opening ceremonies, a team/driver meeting, STEM research project interviews by appointment, awards and more.

The Vex competition includes local, regional, state and national qualifying rounds. Students must place to move up in the competition. Although the Peck students didn’t qualify to move on, one team made it to the finals at the Jan. 30 competition. In addition, the Peck students still had plenty of fun and learned a lot about the STEM process, according to fourth-grader Lillian Padilla and fifth-grader Rahata Uzzaman.

“This is my first year in the Vex robot team,” Padilla said. “I thought it would be a great experience to learn how to engineer. It was fun. I was nervous.”

Padilla was a robot builder and also a parts manager for her team. Uzzaman had several responsibilities.

“First, I programmed the (robot’s) brain,” he said. “And then I was a builder, then a parts manager, then I was the journalist. I recorded our progress. It went really good for our first year.

“In the competition, we were getting better and better driving and maneuvering the robots,” Uzzaman said. “Under the pressure, I kept forgetting how to move it. The person I was working with would tell me which way to go.”

“We’re just proud of our kids,” Beauchaine said.

Nissan representatives also gave the students a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility, where they saw cars undergoing various crash tests.

“It was really cool to see how real cars were manufactured,” Uzzaman said.