South holds first robotics competition, furthers passions outside classroom

Maggie Baumstark and Om Patel

On Jan. 5, South hosted its first robotics competition, in which teams of students from high schools around the area pitted their robots against each other in various contests, according to Dawn Hall, instructional supervisor of the Career and Technical Education Department.

The event was brought to South by Justin Zummo, technical education teacher, who wanted to increase the opportunity for robot enthusiasts to showcase their talent. The competition, called “Turning Point” was sponsored by Vex Robotics and was the third time South had participated in a robotics.

“Engineering kids, robotics kids, and programming kids don’t really have a lot of opportunities to showcase their work,” Zummo said. “[The competition] was their opportunity to shine and to have some Titan pride.”

Sophomore J.T. Ohlandt was among the students from South at the competition. Ohlandt says he was introduced to Vex Robotics in his Principles of Engineering class. The students in the class formed groups to build their own robots, and after a few in-class competitions, Ohlandt and his partner, sophomore Issac Huang, were selected to compete at official tournaments.

“We took the best robot from the whole class to the event [at South],” Ohlandt said. “You spend time building and constructing the robot, and then you go there and compete.”

The competition consisted of around 100 competitors, with 22 teams from local high schools, each of which had built, coded and tested a robot they would enter in a chance to advance to State, Zummo says. Robots competed in a multitude of different point-based games, from flipping caps to a certain color to launching balls at flags. The team who accumulated the most points at the end of the elimination rounds as well as recipients of various awards earned a spot at the Illinois State Championship, Zummo says.

“The hardest part is designing the robot,” Zummo said. “The programming is easy. Designing it to be functional, work well, and pull off all the tasks you need it to pull off, that’s the tricky part.”