Cullman’s Cyber Central Robotics team wins first place at VEX Robotics Tournament

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L-R Cyber Central Director Jonathan Hayes, Kristen Grizell, Anakin Powell, Asa Haynes, Jordan Price, 4-H Agent Kerri Roberts. Team members not pictured Grayson Randall, Jordan Lloyd and Lane Dunn (Sara Gladney for The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Wallace State Community College held VEX IQ Lion’s Pride Robotics Tournament Saturday, Jan. 8. The tournament, administered by the Wallace State Computer Science STEM Club, featured elementary and middle school robotics students and teams. The schools around the area that participated were Oak Mountain Middle, Ivalee Elementary School (Attalla), Alexandria Elementary School, Corner Middle School, Bankhead Middle School (Cordova), Echols Middle School (Northport), Hartselle Intermediate School, North Alabama Cyber Institute (Cullman), Parrish Elementary, Liberty Middle School (Madison) and Etowah Middle School, among others.

The winners of the robotics competition:

  • 1st place- North Alabama Cyber Institute’s team VEXBotX, and the Etowah Hawks from Etowah County.
  • 2nd place- Los Tres Mosquiteros from Atalla and Oak Mountain Robotics
  • 3rd place- RoboCubs from Alexandria and RoboBroncos, the Cullman 4-H team.

Two teams make up each placing as they work cooperatively to score points. Kerri Roberts, Cullman 4-H agent, spoke about the competition’s goal to have kids work together instead of against each other, “You’re trying to work together to get as many points as possible and then each team gets that same score if they are competing at the same time. So, they are really trying to strategize and come up with the best plan for both robots that are on the field.”

Jonathan Hayes is the founder of the North Alabama Cyber Institute. The institute’s physical location, Cyber Central in Cullman is located at 100 Main Ave NW. Hayes has been an educator for over 20 years. He is certified to do high school cyber security training and wants to get kids interested in cyber security. As a part of his outreach, he wanted to present a robotics program as a fun way to get kids involved.

Cullman 4-H and Cyber Central partnered together to give kids the experience of designing and building their own robots. Hayes gave the groups a place to practice at his Cyber Central facility where they practice once a week.

Cullman 4-H Agent Kerri Roberts said about Hayes, “He had been a 4-H volunteer in the past, and he reached out to me to see about renewing that and helping coach the 4-H team because I had resources, I had the kits. We got some VEX Robotics kits through a grant called Mission 200, it was funded by TVA, and also The SCORE program at Auburn.”

The kids in the 4-H robotics program are both public school and homeschool students in the area. 4-H has three different robotics teams with ages ranging from 10 – 13. The age range to compete in VEX IQ is 9-15.

Roberts said, “Part of the VEX Robotics is the kids have to do the build and programming themselves. We’re just facilitators and we just try to guide them. But as the adults, we are not allowed to do the build.”

Each year, VEX robotics releases instructions with their standard build that the kids participating in competitions can choose to keep, or they can change the design. Roberts said that only one of the teams kept that design and the others, including Cyber Central’s team changed their design.

Roberts said that she and Jonathan discussed the lack of robotics programs in Cullman. She said, “It seems like a lot of teachers are intimidated by the technology and they aren’t sure that they could do it themselves, but really the kids catch on so fast that you can just be the facilitator and steer them in the right direction. They are so good with technology, they can figure it out most of the time.”

The next VEX robotics competition the 4-H and Cyber Central teams are attending is “The Last Ride” in Madison on February 5 at Liberty Middle School (281 Dock Murphy Drive, Madison, Alabama 35758).

The Cyber Central team VEXBotX also qualified for state at Auburn on February 12.

Winning team was VEXBotX Asa Haynes, Anakin Powell and Jonathan Haynes (Sara Gladney for The Cullman Tribune)

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