Night at the Museum Robotics Signature Event

Sixty high school robotics teams from across the country competed last month in an elite two-day robotics signature event at the Dulles EXPO Center in Chantilly, Va., called “Night at the Museum” (or NATM19). Students from 25 states competed for top honors to earn one of three qualifying spots for the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC) World Championship in April.

New to the VRC competition season this year, Signature Events were created by the Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation to promote regional play and give teams the option to have a destination beyond their State Championships.

NATM19 was originally slated for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center but the government shutdown made it necessary to change venues to the Dulles EXPO Center. There are plans to repeat the event annually at the Air and Space Museum, so the name of the event will not be change.

NATM19 is run by NOVA SySTEMic, NOVA’s STEM Outreach program. NOVA SySTEMic is a national leader in supporting VEX in the school divisions they serve, with a proven track record of putting on high quality events that engage students in exciting, hands-on robotics engineering competitions.

To fill the roster for NATM19, NOVA SySTEMic utilized award and match results of all competitions, provided by REC, to recruit teams that had won a skills champion, design, tournament champion, or excellence award locally and demonstrated success in engineering, coding and documentation of the design process.

The 60 teams competing at the tournament previously won a combined 88 tournament champion awards, 62 robot skills awards, 28 design awards, and 59 excellence awards from local events across the country. The quality of the competition was stellar. Teams came from Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Nevada, and Texas ranking in the top three in their state for skills scores (eight teams had the 3rd best skills score in their state, seven teams the 2nd highest, and 12 teams the highest). Teams from Maryland, West Virginia, New York, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Arizona also particpated in the event.

The VRC game this year is called ‘Turning Point’. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing alliance by high scoring or low scoring caps, toggling flags, and by alliance parking or center parking robots on the platforms. The exciting weekend of competition included a new format in the knock-out rounds – single elimination (rather than best of three), which added a new layer of excitement!

After an intense weekend of competition, the championship went to the two-team alliance of the A-Team (Team 6008A) and Delta Force (Team 6008D) from North Union High School in Richwood, Ohio. The A-Team also won the Excellence Award.

Students involved in robotics learn how to program and build robots, and to communicate and collaborate with team members and with other teams as they form the strong alliances during competitions. As a result, students learn the technical skills and soft skills that prepare them for success in the workforce.

The event was Supported by Micron, DynCorp International, and the Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation.

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