was invited out to Orlando, FL to cover the 2011 VEX Robotics
World Championship last week. It was bigger and busier than ever this
year. There were lots of things going on besides just VEX matches this
year including BEST, Boy Scout, and Coast Guard robot events. It's also
turning into a good networking event. I
ran into old friends, met friends I'd previously known only online, and
even made some new friends. I've spent the last
several days working my way through all the photos I shot. Read on to
find out more about the event!
View of the audience from one of the match areas
Every year, the VEX Robotics World Championship gets bigger. This
year it topped 500 teams, and more than 10,000 total participants, from
around the world. For 2011, the event moved to the Walt Disney World's
ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando, FL from its previous
location in Dallas, TX. The smaller venue resulted in the VEX event
being spread out across multiple buildings as well a large temporary
structure. Vendors were scattered around in small tents outdoors and
some events were held on the baseball field. The downside to this was a
lot more walking and decreased probability of seeing the random cool
things that teams spontaneously do like parading around, playing
instruments and dancing. But the upside (at least for the younger crowd)
was the proximity to all the Disney theme parks.
Left: One of the team
pit areas. Right: Temporary building housing another team pit area.
I only saw one alligator during my four days in Florida but every
evening as I walked back to my hotel room, I saw dozens of green anoles
scurrying out my way. They were apparently attracted to the warm
sidewalks after sunset.
This year's VEX challenge was called Round Up and involved the usual
moving red or blue objects around on a square field. You can check out
the Round Up
challenge description if you're curious about the details. As
always, the teams of all age groups came up with ingenious robot designs
to tackle the problem. There were a lot more university teams this year
than last year in addition to the many High School and Middle School
teams. There were also more all girl teams again this year. If VEX is
any indication, expect to see more female engineers in the future!
The 1st step of any
robotic endeavour is selection of hair style
In addition to their own matches, VEX hosted other events
BEST championship and the US
Coast Guard Academy's AROW water robotics
competition. The Boy Scouts of America also showed up with lots of
scouts, robots, and scouting officials so we could watch the first
scouts ever finish the requirements for the recently
announced robotics merit badge. There were other distractions
including a DJ, random Disney characters, live music, dancing, and
Scouts, Coast Guard,
and BEST events
The BEST teams continue to be the most enthusiastic robot builders
I've seen. Anytime someone mentions the B-word, the response from all
the BEST teams is deafening, even though I'm pretty sure all that noise
is coming from a much smaller number of people than the VEX group.
Somebody needs to figure out what BEST is doing in the cheer training
department - it's definitely working!
BEST fans cheer for their team
Artist Kari Byron of MythBusters and Head Rush hosted the event.
Last year, MythBuster's Grant Imahara hosted but I think Kari may have
him beat on popularity with the kids. What better role model for
aspiring female engineers than Kari? And teenage boys seem to really
like her too for some reason. In addition to her duties as MC, Kari put
in endless hours posing for millions of photos with robot builders (and
robots) as well as signing autographs.
Kari, Kari, and more
VEX Competitions have many awards, lots of complicated "alliances"
between multiple teams, and several different divisions, so I won't even
attempt to tell you who won what. If you're curous about that sort of
thing check out the 2011
VEX Robotics World Championship Awards & Results list (also checkc
the BEST webset for BEST
competition scores and award rankings). You can read the official VEX news release or
check out the more detailed press kit with photos
BEST fans cheer for their team
And, of course, I shot photos while I was there. Lots and lots of
photos than you could possible want to look at. You'll find them over in
VEX World Championship photo gallery (Update: by popular
slide show of the Kari Byron photos).