SYRACUSE — Saturday, Feb. 3, was a banner day for Wawasee High School’s Iron Pride Robotics Club; not only did it host a tournament featuring 48 teams from Indiana schools, including Warsaw Community High School, but it nearly swept the awards and served as the stage for the Iron Pride’s 574C Centurions team to reach number two in the world rankings, out of nearly 10,000 teams.
“I told them to leave it on the field. Be as amazing as I know you are,” said Jed Wandland of his pep talk given to all the teams taking part in the final tournament match, which saw an alliance of Wawasee and Portage High School teams defeat an alliance including teams from Pioneer High School in Royal Center and Mishawaka High School.
Wandland is a WHS physics teacher who has led the school’s VEX program for the five years of its existence. His own participation in VEX goes back 11 years.
In spite of Wawasee teams winning the tournament, however, for some, the highlight of the day did not take place in front of the gymnasium bleachers, amidst the impressive light display put on by the WHS IT department, but down the hall, where, throughout the day teams tested their robots on the skills course.
It was there, shortly before the remaining teams began the double elimination rounds leading to the final, that the Centurions, a Wawasee team composed of Micah Rassi, Evan Rassi, Nick Murphy and Joseph Kelsheimer, identifiable by their matching fluorescent green hats, achieved a score of 184, lifting them from number seven to second out of 10,000 teams around the world.
This tournament was a qualifying tournament for the Indiana VEX Robotics State Championships to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium, March 10. 300 teams from elementary to high school ages will compete. So far seven Wawasee teams have qualified.
Dr. Tom Edington, Wawasee Community Schools superintendent, also attended the tournament. “The opportunities robotics give our students aren’t just short term,” he observed. Over the long term, he explained, robotics help students gain the knowledge and skills for choosing and succeeding at a number of careers. Edington went on to say he was “in awe” of the students’ ability to work together to solve problems. Robotics “motivate students to do well in other many subjects … its not limited to one,” he commented.
“It’s great to have the success we’ve had. There is a lot of support from the larger community,” said Edington.