Team 80516 is Going Back to Worlds!

By Coach Michelle | The Tiger Hawks had a great day at the Colorado VEX IQ Ringmaster State Championship, and got to drive with a wide variety of elementary and middle school teams from Colorado’s front range. As always, they learned a lot about teamwork and their robot, both from their successes and their challenges.

At the end of the day, they emerged as Teamwork Champions and Robot Skills Champions. They also held onto their #3 rank in the Middle School World Skills Standings, and they’re going back to the VEX IQ World Robotics Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, for the 2nd year in a row!

We’re excited to see Colorado so well represented at Worlds, and we’re especially happy to be traveling with a couple teams that have become friends of ours this season – Team 1069K–Kryptonite–from Berthod Robotics Club, and Team 6883T–the Row-Bots–from Precision Robotics.

Worlds starts on April 29, and we’ll try to post updates while we’re there (if time and WiFi allow it). It might be possible to watch live-streamed matches and see scores in real-time; the webcast tab at Robot Events should have options and info during the event.

First Ringmaster Tournament!

By Coach Michelle and the team | The team attended their first Ringmaster event–the Red Hawk VEX IQ Robot Challenge–on Saturday, December 9th. Here are several team members’ thoughts on the event and how it went. Enjoy!


“I think that the tournament was a big success. It was fun to cheer our team on with the tiger mascot. I think it is cool that we already qualified for state at our first tournament. Skills went really well, but we had trouble with the program. The robot kept bumping the wall. Our main strategy was to do the ground rings and score on the posts and let the other team do the bonus bin and wall rings. I think it was a really fun and successful tournament over all.”


“I think that the tournament went very well. We ended up not getting our best score for skills, but that was the only bad thing and it wasn’t that bad. Our program scored a 27 which was the reason we won skills. Our teamwork skills were amazing, averaging 90 points per game. Plus in Finals we won with a 132! I think this tournament has been the best overall for us ever.”


“I say the competition was fun. The team I voted for sportsmanship didn’t get it. I enjoyed scoring all the points we did.  Winning with the Spudniks was also fun.”


“I think the competition went well, it was really fun and the team worked well together good. I saw the two people who were driving calmly talking to each other about what to do. When the drivers came back from a match, the rest of the team would congradulate them. I think we could improve our sportsmanship by making sure to congradulate both teams in each match. I think we could improve our driving strategy by trying to make it so our robot doesn’t miss as many rings. Overall, I think we had a great competition and we did really well for our first competition.”


“We did skills and got 92. We did programming and got 27.

Stradagy: Our stradagy to grab rings of the floor was good because most other teams only grabbed rings of the wall, or aimed for the ramp so the combanation was good.

Things to improve: Our robot sometimes got jammed when we picked up a ring and it got stuck under the ramp and made it so we couldnt score rings.

Things we did well at: We did well in skills and won teamwork. We also were improving on Teamwork in the later rounds. I Believe we did very good in the Finals because both Teams (ours and the Yellow Spudniks) were good at cooperating.

Awards: Skills, Teamwork, Eccllence, STEM”

3D Printing with the Tiger Hawks

By Coach Michelle | The team is using 3D printing as an element of their STEM project, and this morning a few of them met their technology teacher, Mr. Schmitz, in the lab at school to fire off prints of some models they made in TinkerCAD.

Mr. Schmitz and the Tiger Hawks 3D printingIf you’ve wondered about 3D printing and have access to a printer, TinkerCAD is a simple and intuitive way to create models that can be printed on a wide range of common 3D printers. A few of the controls take some fiddling to understand, but there are great “how to” videos available to decrease the learning curve. Three of our team members have created models in TinkerCAD, and were ready to see what they’d look like as printed objects.

Tiger Hawk Bethany watching the MOD-t 3D printerPrinting a 3D object on the school’s MOD-t printers, made by New Matter, ended up being almost as easy as printing on my laserjet at home. New Matter’s print engine verifies that your model is printable, and that it fits on the printer’s base plate. If there’s a problem like an oversized object, the software tells you right away and offers some solutions.

Tiger Hawk 3D model on the 3D printerAt the “balanced” setting, which shoots for a happy compromise between print time and print quality, most of the team’s models took less than an hour each to print. The final products matched their visions, for the most part, but a few of their models will require some minor modifications back in TinkerCAD before they try printing again.

We’re lucky to have a well-equipped technology lab at the school that’s available for student use, and a knowledgeable and helpful teacher to work with the kids!


Missing O-rings: You learn things, even when you think you’re teaching

By Coach Doug | Success at a VEX IQ Crossover match depends on so many things, and you never expect it to hinge on whether there are missing O-rings.

We went to the Central Firehawks tournament this weekend at Longmont’s Westview Middle School. It was a great tournament, and extremely well run with help from Axel and the Innovation Center staff and students.

I was pushy, and sent a list of suggestions on how the fields should be checked based on previous experience—the bridge is so hard on the tournament volunteers and managers. There are hours invested in building it, and if it isn’t perfect it won’t work well. Axel and the tournament managers graciously thanked me for my pushiness, and assured me that they’d ask for help if anything came up.

So, learning while teaching?

All those emails that said “we’re experts in construction of the fields, and we’re happy to check them for you,” that’s being the expert. Turns out, I failed at it.

At a recent event with Team 974X, Chazak, they noticed that the O-rings were missing from the pegs on the walls. Their robot (and ours) relies on being able to reliably pick up balls from the wall and score them. When Chazak touched any ball, it fell off much too easily. They knew there was a problem, and figured out that parts were missing.

This weekend, hex balls were again falling off the walls with the slightest touch. We forgot about the O-rings.

We’d seen a great team notice the missing O-rings just a few weeks ago. Then at this weekend’s competition, an Innovation Center student asked me, “Did you change your program? Your bot is always more reliable than this!” during a programming skills match. All of the signs were there.

I never checked.

Last night, as we watched videos of this weekend’s matches, my daughter pointed out how easily the hex balls fell, even when barely touched (there’s a clip near the bottom of this post). She zoomed in on a video, and sure enough … it looks like the O-rings were missing. Even with all the clues, I never thought to check the problem—it was easier to write it off to nervous 3rd-6th grade drivers.

No missing O-rings? ✔ Check.

For our next tournament, we’ll make a checklist of the field elements that matter to our robot. This weekend (and our second instance of missing O-rings!) was a learning experience—even for this guy, who foolishly said “I’m an expert” before the event. I plan to talk to the team at our next practice: learn from your mistakes and do better next time. I even plan to take my own advice.

We’ve seen the best competitive teams over the last two years check the field and its elements every single match. We’re working to become one of those teams, both as we teach and as we learn.

Missing o-rings on the VEX IQ Crossover field can be trouble
What the O-rings and pegs look like when installed correctly
VEX IQ o-rings and pegs with a ruler for scale
Pegs and O-rings with an inch ruler for scale; they’re tiny but important parts!

This is the kind of behavior we’ve seen from hex balls that are attached to the wall on pegs with missing O-rings. The hex balls are much less stable, and normally well-behaved robots knock balls off left and right.

When hex balls are attached to the wall on pegs that include O-rings, it’s more difficult to knock them off unintentionally.

Central Firehawks VEX IQ Challenge earned us a Middle School Excellence Award!

By Coach Michelle | The team had a great day at this tournament, and was honored with a Middle School Excellence Award, the highest award presented in the VEX IQ Challenge. They also brought home another Skills Champion trophy; got a perfect score from the judges on their design, interview, and engineering notebook; and presented their STEM project for the first time with very good results. These kids continue to work so hard, and make us coaches and parents so proud!

January 7 VEX IQ Trophies were Robot Skills Champion and the Middle School Excellence Award