Devereaux Lewis, Nathan Fraker, and Calvin Selim pick up remote controls as they prepare to run a test

View Ridge Middle School students (L to R) Lacey Bennett and Micah Nguyen prepare to switch the motor on their robot

View Ridge Middle School will send 11 students to state competition in Seattle next week at the Washington Technology Student Association (WTSA) Conference. View Ridge has three robotics teams, but the students will also compete in coding, flight, inventions and innovations, digital photography, problem solving, tech bowl, mass production, prepared speech, technical design, CAD foundations, and career prep. In addition to competing, the conference gives them the opportunity to learn from industry professionals and participate in fun activities. 

With only a few days left until competition, the teams are completely focused on their robots. 

“The robots are mostly ready,” eighth graders Lacey Bennett says, “but we still need to switch out this motor.” 

The team works together to calculate the correct placement for the new motor before removing the old one. The complex machines are similar to NASA’s Mars Rover, designed to collect samples, drive to destinations, avoid obstacles, and move materials—but these are middle school students, hard at work in the View Ridge Middle School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) lab. So far, their robots are all working well, buzzing and whirring with movement.

The View Ridge Technology Student Association team has been meeting three days a week after school with coach Tylor Hankins, testing and reconfiguring their robots to handle the competition course. They’re making sure all of the motors, complex mechanics, video, and remote controls work together smoothly in these last few hours of practice. The part they’re testing now is collecting and depositing the “samples” of paper clips and marshmallows into small boxes along the course. Each team has designed a different solution: magnets, claws, even a small set of marshmallow-impaling spikes. 

(L to R) Jonah Wright, Hunter Nelson, Ronan Zabinski, and Westin Walker fine tune their robot’s ability to collect and move samples

Hankins says the students have worked independently on each robot’s design and function, only occasionally asking for assistance. He looks at the three teams gathered around the lab, figuring out creative solutions to last minute challenges, and smiles. “We’ve been to WTSA competition before,” he says, “But this year, I think we’ll be more competitive.”

Three students gather around one robot, and seventh grader Devereaux Lewis picks up a remote control. “We’re excited to compete,” he says, “but currently we have only one class left to work on it. We’ve just got to get this claw to work. Let’s figure it out.”

With that, the students bend their heads back over the robot, discussing options and making small adjustments to get their robot ready to compete.