GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Some West Michigan students are taking their engineering and design talents to a national stage this week.
Members of Jenison’s robotics team are headed to the VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I love all the engineering and all the designing and programming with it. I’ve always had a passion for inventing things and stuff,” 13-year-old Nathan Appel told 24 Hour News 8 on Thursday as he and his teammates — all middle school students — worked on their robots in the high school media center.
On the other side of the media center, another team made up of elementary-aged students was also practicing.
Appel and the rest of his “Game Over” teammates like their chances as they go head-to-head with the best in the world at the tournament.
“We are the only catapult this year in the state of Michigan that we found. So we throw things,” Nathan said.
There’s a lot to the competition — design, strategy, trial and error.
Matthew McCormick — who serves on the Jenison Robotics Board, emcees tournaments, referees and coaches — explained how this year’s contest is played:
“It’s a one-minute timed event. It’s teamwork, so they’re not competing against each other. The object of the game is to get the blue balls where the blue goals are and the orange balls over here,” he showed 24 Hour News 8, pointing to the orange goals.
Next year, the game will change.
“The games, they pick it up pretty quick. You’d be surprised how easily the elementary kids are picking things up,” McCormick said.
Some of the teams have been working on their robot since late summer, and their work will come to a head at the tournament.
But more important than the competition is the experience, which is putting the kids ahead in subjects that could land them in the lead heading into college and beyond.
“I think what this is going to give them is more interest in the sciences, more interest in engineering,” McCormick said.
“I was thinking of doing a mechanical engineering job when I’m older,” Nathan Appel said.
A number of West Michigan school districts, including Jenison, Grandville and Hudsonville, are home to successful robotics teams. McCormick said other school districts have inquired about what it takes to put a team together.