VEX Robotics Tournament teaches students lifelong lessons

NEENAH, Wis. On Saturday high school and middle school students showed their competitive side during the annual Vex Robotics Tournament at the St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Neenah.

The tournament is one of two going on in the state, the other is in Somerset. The Vex Robotics Tournament brings out some of the sharpest robotics teams in the region, this year the robots are battling it out in a game called "In the Zone.”

"So they have these cones that they need to pick up and place onto these goals, the more cones obviously that they get on the goals the more they score," said Ronald Lohse, an officer for Fox Valley Competitive Robotics.

A total of 32 registered teams from Wisconsin and Illinois competed for one of nine spots to go on to the state finals at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, which takes place the first weekend of March.

Students used science, technology, engineering and math, known as ‘STEM’ to build their robots, but this competition is bigger than that.

Jack Loken’s team won an award at the tournament, Loken says he plans on studying mechanical engineering after graduation.

"It gives you an opportunity to come and be with your friends and also do a bunch of problem solving and learning new programming and building skills and it gives a lot of life lessons as well," said Jack Loken, Xavier High School Robotics Team- Appleton.

"It actually helps with public speaking believe it or not because when you're in your interview you have to talk to the judges people that you most likely won't know so that skill definitely helps a lot," said Max Van Rossum, St. Mary’s Catholic High School Robotics Team- Neenah.

Van Rossum’s team won the prestigious Design Award and qualified for the state competition.

"When they get out of this program they become engineers, scientists, researchers, doctors after college," said Dave Levine, STEM Robotics Mentor at St. Mary’s Catholic High School.

Lohse says the competition takes these young students a long way, one VEX Robotics alumni even ended up in product development for Apple.

"They learn how to cooperate, they learn how to problem solve, they learn how to communicate, learn conflict resolution, all these skills that businesses and industries are asking for that you can't come up with a curriculum to teach,” said Lohse.