Robotics Takes Three Awards at BHS Tournament

Kassidy Haggard

On Saturday, January  25, the Bentonville West Robotics team went to Bentonville High School and competed with 32 teams. Bentonville West came away with three awards, two of which were Tournament Champions, and one was the Design Award.

In Robotics tournaments, normally 34 teams compete. First, everyone is assigned 6 qualification rounds where they are teamed up with another team (this team can be from anywhere, a different school or from the same school) and they work together to beat the two opposing teams. Every year the game and objective changes, but every game is played on a 12 by 12 field. This year the game is called Tower Takeover. 

Bentonville West has 4 Robotics teams: three are co-ed and one is an all-girls team. Every competition these teams have to go through a notebook and interview process; winning the Design Award is based on this. The teams are often interviewed by professionals or those in the robotics community. 

Robotics is truly a team sport and “it has to be,” says Mr. Holderby, the West Robotics teacher. The interview process relies on the entirety of the team, as everyone has to know what they’re talking about and know their part if they hope to do well. And that’s exactly what the Gold Dust team did this past weekend.

Doing well in the actual competition is also a huge team effort. It also tests a student’s ability to communicate with other teams, especially if that team is from a different school. Luckily for Blue Dawn and Navy Knights, the senior team and the freshman and sophomore team, respectively, they got to work together and both came away being the Tournament Champions. This was a great opportunity for the older, more experienced team to help the younger, less experienced team, and mentor them.

The seniors were part of the original 12 people who were in Robotics when West opened. They watched that number rise a few years after to around 20-24, and then again this year to 36 students. Even though these seniors are graduating, the program’s rapid expansion and growth is showing no signs of stopping, as next year the program is expecting even more students to join.

Accompanied with this growth has been the growing number of girls joining Robotics. There are 14 girls in Robotics in total, and the majority of those girls make up West’s all-girl team. There are a lot of scholarships that are focused on girls who participate in Robotics. However, as Nicole Chapman notes, “I never really see a lot of scholarships being given to girls that are for everyone, it’s mostly just the scholarships meant for girls.” Chapman hopes that as the program continues to expand, that will change and girls will start winning scholarships meant for everyone.

As of late, Bentonville West Robotics has been doing amazingly well, and Mr. Holderby is excited he’s been able to watch his teams grow and develop. They even hope to go to Worlds again. Last year West’s Robotics team made it to Worlds for the first time, and they had no idea what to expect. Last year, over 600 teams from 75 different countries made their way to Louisville Kentucky and competed against teams from places like Australia and China.

Now West Robotics knows a little bit more about how Worlds functions and what to expect. Mr. Holderby said, “Really it’s making us step up our game because before we were just kind of competing against teams here in Arkansas, and we’re kind of setting our sights a little bit higher to compete with teams” from outside of not only the state but the country, as well. 

But that’s not the only reason Worlds is difficult. There is also the challenge of communicating with teams who speak different languages or only speak a little English. However, “they did a really good job at being able to communicate,” Mr. Holderby noted. “They were able to create a mockup of the field and be able to communicate that way.”

This year the Bentonville West Robotics team is more excited, as well as more prepared. Their goal is to not only make it to Worlds but to do well once they get there. Our Robotics team is making West history and it’s evident they will continue to do so as the program grows and expands.