Six students from Rapid City Stevens High School will depart for Louisville, Ky., this evening to compete in the VEX Robotics Championship.
The tournament draws teams of students from more than 40 different countries each year. Stevens students previously qualified for it in 2017 and last year attended the national-level games.
“It’s a pretty special privilege" said Ian Helgeson, a Stevens senior and member of the team. "It’s only 520 teams out of the entire world that get to go, so it’s really cool to be able to do this.”
Each of the three VEX teams at Stevens began working on their own robots in September. Helgeson estimates about 100 hours of work is poured into each team's machine, which themselves can go through multiple design and build iterations. They are generally made from parts comparable to those available in commercial erector sets.
Teams from different schools are randomly matched together and compete against other so-called alliances where points are awarded for their robot's ability to complete different task. The theme and nature of the tasks change each year.
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Participating in VEX, said Stevens teacher and team coach Jason Reub, not only serves as an application for science and mathematics concepts but as a chance for students to develop team-building skills as well.
"We get to meet people from all over the world," Reub said.
The team headed for Louisville, Reub said, collected about $9,000 from donations and fundraisers this year. They netted about 30 sponsors, he said, ranging from Black Hills Orthopedic and Spine Center to Coca-Cola.
For placing at a state-level tournament, the students qualified to compete in Thursday and Friday's preliminary rounds. They will be competing for a spot in the final round scheduled for Saturday.
"I think we’re definitely going to be able to compete against the best of them,” Helgeson said.