Robotics team gains valuable skills in the VEX V5 Robotics Challenge


Caterina Pye '23

Sacred Heart Greenwich students compete in the 2023 VEX Robotics Competition.

The Sacred Heart Greenwich robotics team participated for the first time in the VEX V5 Robotics Challenge February 4.  Robotics captain senior Kass Morrow and sophomore Kensington Bleuel represented the Sacred Heart team in Danbury, Connecticut.  Kass and Mrs. Ana Nystedt, Robotics Faculty Advisor and Upper School Computer Science Teacher, commented on the experience and the team’s preparation for the challenge.

Kass practices driving the robot before the competition.  Courtesy of Mrs. Ana Nystedt

The VEX V5 Robotics Challenge requires students to use interchangeable parts to create a robot that performs a task.  Each year, VEX develops a new game with different scoring regulations and objectives.  The parts and standard robot kits remain the same, but each team develops upgrades and changes to maximize its robot’s capabilities. 

The 2023 challenge, VRC Spin Up, was a head-to-head game in which two alliances, red and blue, competed against each other.  The primary objective of the game was for the robots to score yellow foam discs into goals located above the field, which were worth five points.  Besides scoring goals, there were other tasks that the robots could complete in order to gain points, such as spinning the rollers located on the field or the robot’s location on the field at the end of the competition, according to VEX Robotics.  

Prior to the challenge, teams developed their respective strategies to respond to the rules of the game.  They then set priorities for the designing process and building the hardware.  Lastly, they needed to create software that optimized the chances of scoring points.  The software was in a programming language called C++, and the robots ran on two modes, an autonomous one and a user-controlled one, to complete the different tasks of the competition.  Mrs. Nystedt described how the students garnered useful skills inside and outside the robotics field during their preparation. 

“Problem-solving is at the heart of robotics,” Mrs. Nystedt said.  “Students learn by experience that there is no straight path to a solution.  There will be many twists and turns before finding ‘A’ solution, not ‘THE’ solution.  It is an art and a science.  Ideas, design, experimentation, implementation, testing, troubleshooting, and circling back to ideas, are all phases of the iterative engineering process.  Perseverance is the “magic sauce” that brings it all together.  Teamwork is very important, each student contributes in their own way, but they all have to be results-oriented working towards the same goal.  In addition, team members practice explaining their ideas to their peers, which is also a very valuable skill.”

Robotics team members make improvements to their robot.  Courtesy of Mrs. Ana Nystedt

The team placed 31 out of 70 teams in the challenge that spanned the entire day and made it to the second round of matches.  The students learned valuable information about robotics during the challenge and ways to improve.  Kass described how this opportunity helped to develop their robotics skills and team bond further.

“In the VEX Robotics competition, our team learned so much and bonded in so many ways,” Kass said.  “Seeing the capabilities of other robots and being able to work with other teams to help us succeed gave us so many ideas of how to improve our robot in the future.  We felt so welcomed by everyone at the event, and we had an amazing time.  Only two members of our team were able to go this year, but both of us got so close as we figured out solutions to problems and competed together.”

Featured Image by Caterina Pye ’23