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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:02:06 14:58:52

The champion team of the Vex Turning Point robotics competition, from left to right: Craig Mercanti, Albert Kausmeyer, Marshall Macknosky, Jason Skumanich, Christian Owens, Wilber Lopez and instructor Sarah Marie Davis.

When Albert Kausmeyer, Marshall Macknosky, Jason Skumanich, Craig Mercanti, Wilber Lopez and Christian Owens set out to construct a robot for their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes, they did not expect to be competitive against seasoned robotics teams across three different states. This past month, however, they took first place at the Vex Turning Point at Delaware County Christian School, besting 65 other teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

They have also qualified for the Eastern Pennsylvania State Championship at Norristown Area High School.

“This game was a lot more challenging than years past,” said Sarah Marie Davis, the team’s instructor and STEM teacher. “The team was challenged to create a robot that could flip caps, shoot balls, climb on platforms and fight other robots.”

The group began construction of their robot the first week of school, meeting every school day in their advanced robotics and other STEM courses and after school two times per week. Members of the group, led by captain Kausmeyer, took on different roles to complete their task. Skumanich was the driver of the robot, while Macknosky worked on autonomous programming, which allowed the robot to perform every task needed without anyone touching it.

The others in the group worked on controls and functionality programming so it could be driven.

“This is my first year on the robotics team, and I didn’t expect to be the driver, but Mrs. Davis noticed that I caught on quickly so she chose me,” said Skumanich. “Seeing all the other teams and the competition was a little overwhelming for me because I’d be driving against them.”

“There were a few hiccups early on in the competition, but once we reached the elimination rounds we won every one.”

“The most difficult thing for me was repetition,” said Macknosky of working on autonomous programming. “Having to do it over and over again to get it right. I think I wrote and rewrote the program 357 times.”

“Our slip gear system was a big challenge,” said Kausmeyer. “It took a lot of time and effort to get it done correctly.”

“Our latch system to catch the catapult was difficult to plan and build,” said Mercanti.

“They all gave their blood, sweat, and tears in this,” said Davis. “Each of them must have put in 75 hours of building.”

“With all the trial and error that went into this, when things finally started working it was really satisfying,” said Skumanich. “We would be trying new things unsuccessfully for weeks, so it was an amazing feeling when things started to go the right way.”

The team looks forward to its upcoming competition, and is preparing to qualify for the Vex Robotics World Championship. They are also aiming for the Excellence Award, which is awarded to a team of students that show exemplary engineering prowess.

For Davis, what’s most exciting is the progress her team has made in the past year.

“The coolest thing is that this is only the second year for our robotics teams,” said Davis.

“Last year I had to be more involved because of the students’ limited knowledge, but this time around they knew the basics and researched everything they didn’t know. So this is truly a representation of their work. They really impressed me for sure.”