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Liberty Middle VEX IQ Robotics Team:
(L-R): Jahmari Edmonds and Jeffrey Lowe

Newton County Theme VEX IQ Robotics Team:
Kneeling left to right Dhakiya Knights and Aralyn Everett
Left to right: Mentor Kellie Watts, Katie Oakley, Grace Watts, Lauren Iaccarino, Katelin Wilber, Coach Kena Hudgins.

Two Newton County School System middle school robotics teams secured invitations to the 2017 VEX IQ World Championships after stellar performances this past weekend at the Georgia VEX IQ Robotics State Championships.  Liberty Middle School’s Team 10615A paired up with another team to win the Teamwork Champion Award and Newton County Theme School’s Team 11028F took home top honors in the STEM Research Project category.  Both teams will now set their sights on the World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky on April 23-25th.

Liberty Middle School’s winning team, comprised of students Jahmari Edmonds and Jeffrey Lowe, were the number two seed after a day of qualifying rounds in this year’s VEX IQ game, Crossover.  In the Teamwork Challenge, student-designed robots work with a partner by moving hexballs from one side of the field to the other and scoring them in various scoring zones.  At the end of the match, teams can also score points by parking the robots on a bridge that hinges in the middle to tilt back and forth.

“Liberty’s performance during the qualification rounds paired them for a final match on a team with the number one seed, from Saddle Ridge Middle School and the two teams worked together to win it all,” said Dr. Tim Schmitt, NCSS Director of Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education.

In addition to the Teamwork Challenge, the tournament provided opportunities for teams to show off their skills in a STEM Research presentation, Driver Skills matches, Programming Skills matches, and judged interviews.  This year, the STEM Research topic was “robotics in your community.”  Team 11028F from Newton County Theme School (NCTS), or “Girl Code” as they are named is an all-girls team made up of: Katie Oakley, Grace Watts, Lauren Iaccarino, Katelin Wilber, Dhakiya Knights, and Aralyn Everett.

“These young ladies wowed the judges with their project on robotic prosthetics,” said Schmitt. 

He added, “While Liberty and Newton County Theme School took home hardware from the state championship events, the elementary and middle school robotics programs all across Newton County were shining examples of success over the weekend.  The school system held nearly half of the state championship tournament spots with 12 of the 35 elementary teams in the tournament and 15 of the 25 middle school teams that were there.  Heard-Mixon Elementary, in their first year as a competitive team, made it to the finals of the elementary division and seven of the ten middle school teams in the finals (3 from Liberty, 2 from Cousins, 1 from Indian Creek, and 1 from Newton County Theme) were from Newton County.”

In order to qualify for the state championships, teams had to perform well in local competitions and/or post a high enough skills score to gain an invite.  The elementary schools representing NCSS in the state tournament included Rocky Plains, Mansfield, East Newton, NCTS-Elementary, Flint Hill, Heard Mixon, Live Oak, and Fairview. NCSS middle schools with teams participating included Liberty, Indian Creek, Cousins, NCTS-Middle, and Veterans Memorial.

“Students participating in the VEX IQ Challenge consistently exhibit high levels of enthusiasm, teamwork, and a true passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education,” said Schmitt. “I’m blown away by the growth of the program in Newton County over the last two years and am thrilled with the commitment shown by our participating teachers and students!”

The two NCSS World Qualifying teams will join eleven other teams from Georgia to compete at the World Championships.  This event is truly an international one, where students will have a chance to compete with and against others from all over the U.S. as well as teams from China, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Finland, Chile, Turkey, and more from all across the globe.

As the teams prepares for their trip to the World Championship, they are seeking donations and sponsorships to help offset the cost of the trip as well as new parts for their robots.  The two teams will need approximately $5000.00 each to fund this exciting endeavor.  Anyone interested in sponsoring the two NCSS robotics teams traveling to the World Championship competition should contact Kena Hudgins at NCTS, Raymont Burke at Liberty Middle, or Tim Schmitt, at the Board of Education.

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