NCCA VEX World Championships

NCCA Students Win Big at High School VEX Robotics World Championships
Posted on 05/26/2021
Three students with robotLocal Team Brings Home World Championship Hardware for the First Time in the History of NCSS Robotics

Newton College and Career Academy’s students from VEX Robotics Team 8682N, secured a World Championship Division Finalists trophy at the VEX Robotics World Championship that took place as a Live Remote event May 20-22, 2021. Students competed with and against more than 250 teams from all over the World. The event truly was an international one, including teams from Australia, Canada, Columbia, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States. This action-packed event required high school students to execute the 2020-2021 VEX Robotics Competition game, Change Up presented by the Robotics Education & Competition (REC) Foundation.

As Division Finalist Award recipients, the team showed they had it what it takes to compete with the best. This designation put them among the top 24 teams in the World Championships. This accomplishment helps put NCCA Robotics on the national and international map and helps show what Newton County Students are learning when it comes to STEM Education.

NCCA’s 8682N VEX Robotics Competition team is comprised of Bryce Freeman, David Byrke, and Josh Sewell, all of whom are seniors this year. To prepare for the tournament, the group worked together to design, build and program a robot using the VEX EDR system, that could quickly and efficiently solve specific challenges that come with playing the 2020-2021 VEX Robotics Competition game, Change Up. Throughout the school year, actually starting last summer, the students have applied what they have learned about STEM in the classroom, to build these semi-autonomous machines. An equally important set of skills is learned through the competition -- communication, project management, time management, and teamwork.

Zack Pitts, the team’s coach and advisor said, “In a year where adversity was at an all-time high with COVID-19, it was a great honor to see Bryce, David, and Josh overcome and achieve their goal of creating a world-class robot for this competition season. I am proud of their accomplishments, but prouder of the growth into young men that I have seen over the years. They leave a legacy of leadership that will inspire generations of teams to come from NCCA.”

The NCSS VEX Robotics Competition team meets before, during, and after school several days per week. The students learn about engineering design, electronics, programming, mechanical systems, 3D CAD, computer-aided machining, and materials fabrication. Chad Walker, the school’s principal and CEO said, “The skills our students are able to develop as a result of the Robotics program are in high demand. While the technical skills are certainly important, I’m most impressed with what the team does in the areas of communication and project management. Those skills are transferable immediately for a successful future.”

Team captain Bryce Freeman said he was proud of his peer's perseverance and accomplishments. "Our main goal was to achieve what no NCCA team had ever done, make it to the VEX Robotics Championship. Performing as well as we did was icing on the cake. All three team members plan to continue after high school in a high-tech/high-demand area, utilizing the skills they acquired on our robotics team.” Bryce will be attending Georgia Southern University to study engineering, David Byrke will be headed off to the Year Up program in Atlanta where he’ll engage in career training and mentorship leading to one of the program’s high-tech industry partners, and Josh Sewell is planning to pursue a hands-on technical career, possibly as a welder.

Newton County School Superintendent, Samantha Fuhrey, has seen the impact that VEX Robotics has had on students in the district. “I couldn’t be more proud of the NCCA team and look forward to seeing how they shape the world of STEM in the future,” said Fuhrey. “When we began a K-12 push for competitive robotics in NCSS six years ago, we knew it would be something students would get excited about. The program has grown over the years and we now have more than 50 teams participating, representing all of our elementary, middle, and high schools.”

Fuhrey also noted that Facebook has recently connected with Newton’s district robotics program as a Signature Sponsor. According to Ms. Fuhrey, “Facebook has provided nearly $200,000 to our district robotics program over the last two years. Their continued partnership ensures we can continue to expand this opportunity to even more students in our school system.”

Newton College and Career Academy had another team compete in the World Championships (Team 8682C). That group performed well, but didn’t make it through qualification rounds to advance to the elimination brackets. The additional team members were on hand, however, during 8682N’s finals showing to lend a hand and provide a great deal of encouragement.

While the NCCA teams were the only Newton County groups in this year’s World Championship, several other Newton County teams have qualified for and participated in the World Championship event in the past. Teams from Mansfield Elementary, Liberty Middle School, Newton County Theme School and Alcovy High School have also participated in previous World Championships. According to Tim Schmitt, NCSS Director of CTAE & Workforce Innovation, “It’s exciting to see our teams do well and compete on the World’s stage. It is even more rewarding to realize that many of the students on this year’s 8682 teams from NCCA started out as middle school VEX IQ competitors when we began our robotics push several years ago. I can only imagine what we’ll see when our first elementary competitors are seniors. We truly are building a pipeline of STEM professionals!”