Brookside middle school robotics team goes to state competition in their first year

  • Go, Bob, go! – Bob, the remote-controlled robot designed and built by Brookside Middle School’s robotics team, gets a workout before state competition. Pictured here are (l-r) Collin Houpt, Michael Bilczo and Kane Bessemer, all seventh-graders. (Press photo – Michele Murphy)

    Race, Bob, race! – Once their robot secures an orange cube, the team’s driver (far right) needs to race the robot to a fence over which the cube is flung, gaining points for speed and accuracy. (Press photo – Michele Murphy)


Sheffield Village/Sheffield Lake

by Michele Murphy

When the Eastside Elephants designed Bob, the robot, they focused on function and a little something more. Michael Bilczo says very few of the nearly 40 middle school teams they will face at state competition have lights on their robots. “Why not stand out?” he asks.

Brookside Middle School’s robotics program began this school year so they have made progress quickly to be ranked 11th in the state as they entered state competition over the weekend. Middle school science teacher Maria Ferrer who advises the team says the amount of time and dedication on the part of the team “is incredible.”

She continues, “Kids are here almost every night. They really want to succeed.”

The middle school competition is called VEX Starstruck, where teams of robots try to move stars and cubes across a fence, while robots on the other side are moving objects back. The two minute game is similar to a game of “hot potato”.

It was not unusual for them to compete or scrimmage against high school teams that had far more experience. Ferrer says the team has experienced some problems with their robot, which is not unusual. She says they were “particularly bummed” at the last tournament when the robot “had issues” during competition. However, they earned an award of excellence from judges based on their teamwork.

They returned home to Brookside and, like other teams, have spent hours making fixes to correct those issues.

Michael says this is why he feels “very confident in our robot.”

Michael, Collin Houpt and Kane Bessemer demonstrated Bob’s ability to sweep up stars and cubes as they explained it took between one and two months to create and build Bob.

Kane says he really wanted to do robotics believing “it make me smarter” and enhances his teamwork skills. Michael likes “hands on” building. His interest in robotics grew from his participation in bankshot competition when he was a bit younger. Collin says he “always wanted to be a scientist,” or go out for pro sports. Also on the team are Dana Adkins, Kylie Racz, Emma Roth, Nathan Zarif and Jordan McClelland.

Ferrer says they are an example that “when you work really hard, it can pay off.” Even though the team fell just a bit shy of qualifying for world competition, Landis adds, “Qualifying for state in the first year is a real accomplishment.”

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