This year's VEX Robotics Competition, held on Dec 4-5, involved the clearing of balls from one side of the field onto the other. Opponents needed to build robots that could pick up nerf size soccer balls and footballs and either dump them into the opponents area, shove them through a small window or throw them over the side. It was great to watch the strategy of the game and the thought that goes into designing the robots. All the teams participating in the 2009 challenge get the same VEX kit and instructions on the game objectives. This year's field included 90+ teams most from Hawaii but several from China and the US mainland. This video was particularly interesting as it clearly showcases the objectives for the challenge. The teams challenging each other are Farrington/McKinley (Blue Team) and Bellarmine College Prep (Red Team). The first 30 seconds is an autonomous period. The robot functions on its own, based on preprogrammed instruction. The goal is to get as many balls over to the opponents area as possible. The video starts off in the Bellarmine field and later moves over to the Farrington/McKinley side. Pay close attention to the Bellarmine design. Their robots have unique qualities. The robot closest to the camera can fling the balls from the basket. Very useful to minimize the balls falling out of the basket back onto your side. It also efficiently picks up balls by drawing them into the basket. The other robot on the far side is made for defense, able to block the opponent's robot from dropping balls on your side. During the autonomous period they are able to unload a lot of balls. During the next phase the robots are controlled by operators. Notice how quickly the Bellarmine team scoops balls and clears their area. It was nearly empty when I decided to move over the view the Farrington/McKinley side. To the credit of the Farrington/McKinley team they gave it an awesome try but the McKinley robot ran into technical difficulty and froze. It was a lopsided victory for Team Bellarmine, who went on to sweep the championship. Of course it is all not about winning the competition. A lot of studies, teamwork, strategy, presentation skill and execution goes into the VEX competition. There were teams as young at 8-9 year olds from China, middle school kids from Pearl City Highlands, high schoolers and the Bellarmine team (** Note: the Bellarmine team members are all high schoolers as well) who had parents/mentors that work at NASA Ames Research. All in all a very fun and exciting event to witness. Congratulations to all the teams that participated. Excellence awards went to McKinley and Pearl City Highlands; Tournament Finalists when to Honoka`a and Waiakea High Schools. You can see the full results here. I am looking forward to next year's challenge.