Robotics competition puts students’ STEM skills to the test

From left, members of the Vexetarians – Ashley Hudson, Vanessa Reyes, Madison Johnson and Destin Smyth – test their robotic entry named Lettuce in Saturday’s VEX Robotics competition hosted by Selbyville Middle School. All four students attend Selbyville Middle School. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).


SELBYVILLE – Some future engineers and 21st century inventors may have been among the students present Saturday at Selbyville Middle School.

Students from schools in Delaware, Virginia and Pennsylvania put their expertise and ingenuity to the test before a panel of judges in the VEX Robotics competition, hosted by Selbyville Middle School.

Indian River School District was well-represented with six of the 13 overall entries.

Four teams were from Selbyville Middle School and two hailed from Indian River High School.

Cape Henlopen High School seniors Raven Blakeney, left, and Luke Branner put their robotics entry to the test in robotics competition Saturday at Selbyville Middle School. Students from schools in Delaware, Virginia and Pennsylvania competed in the event. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).


Cape Henlopen High School was also represented.

Six trophies, including the Excellence Award for the overall winner, were at stake.

Saturday’s event stems from Selbyville Middle School STEM teacher Travis Bower’s efforts to showcase student creativity and knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

“I wanted to bring more robotics to Delaware … and bring it down here and show everybody what it is really about,” said Mr. Bower.

One of Selbyville Middle Schools’ entries was named “Lettuce.”

“As in like ‘Let us beat you,’” said eighth grader Ashley Hudson, who teamed with sixth grader Destin Smyth and seventh graders Madison Johnson and Vanessa Reyes.

“I really like building things because at home I have a set of Legos that I like to construct,” said Madison. “I am a good student in school – at least I think I am – and so I found an area that I thought I could really excel in. Plus, I have a lot of free time because I am not involved in sports.”

“I like to program and build things,” said Destin.

Vanessa said she likes the challenge in attaining success after failure.

“It’s like how many times that there is failure but you still get up and you try again. We built our robotics like eight times,” said Vanessa.

Students used basic robotics kits to build a motorized robot armed with sensors and a brain, called the cortex.

Each team had two minutes to put their robotics to the test, undertaking various tasks such as stacking plastic cubes on crates and columns. The first 15 seconds is autonomous with complete programming; the remaining minute, 45 seconds is completely operator controlled.

“Last year during the STEM class we built robots and I enjoyed it. I enjoy the challenge of it because I like the way you have to think critically to find a solution,” said Ashley, who may employ STEM in a career path. “I was thinking about doing the machines that help surgeons in surgery because I originally wanted to be a surgeon. It seems interesting.”

For Vanessa, robotics is a way to enhance family ties with her 6-year-old autistic brother.

“He can’t really talk. So what really interests me is … something that would help him communicate with us,” Vanessa said.

Several teachers and Sussex County Engineer Michael Izzo were among the judges for the competition.

Mr. Bower acknowledged the support from the school and community in staging the robotics event.

The list includes: Selbyville Middle School and the school’s PTO, Indian River School District, Harris-Teeter, Giant, Food Lion, Hudson’s General Store, Assorted Services Inc., AE Axiom Engineering, Fisher’s Popcorn and the Clark, Brett, Tull, Filling, Haas and Smyth families.

“This is the first year for this competition here,” said Mr. Bower. “The community has really been supportive, which is quite awesome. It is really helpful.”

From left, Garrett Jones, Loren Filling, Ashley Hudson and Will Brewington work on one of the Indian River School District’s robotics entries in Saturday’s VEX Robotics competition at Selbyville Middle School. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).


News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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