Phillips Academy's student VEX Robotics club won the Excellence Award during a competition in November.

The VEX Robotics competition took place on Nov. 18 at North Andover High School. VEX Robotics competitions are put on by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, a national organization that seeks to encourage student engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. During VEX competitions, students use engineering skills to create a robot and play their robot against other teams. 

The Excellence Award is given to the top all around team at a competition. 

The Phillips Academy team also won fourth place in the qualifying rounds and advanced to tournament finals. The day-long competition started at 9 a.m. and lasted until 5 p.m. Two teams play against each other, each team with two robots in each match totaling four robots altogether. The goal is to score as many points as possible by stacking and moving cones with the robots. 

"There were a few challenges involved in the competition," wrote Jeffery Shen, 16, co-head and co-founder of PA's VEX Robotics, in an email. "First, logistical challenges. As a completely student-run and organized club, we needed to figure out transportation, food, and other logistics alongside our building of the actual robots. Second, technical challenges. We initially had some programming malfunctions in the first few matches, but they were not too severe and we were able to address them fairly quickly. Lastly, competitions are really hectic and stressful. We wanted to let everyone on our team, regardless of experience, attend the event to get experience, but this meant that we had around 14 team members to keep track of, which was challenging."

The team is now training and preparing for the upcoming spring VEX robotics competition.

"Through the competition, we’ve discovered what works and what doesn’t," Shen explained. "We plan on redesigning our robot to try to fix all of the issues we found. Logistically, we have been putting in a lot of time and have been hosting a build session on every day of the week except Sunday, to give everybody in our program an opportunity to come up and work on our robots."

Shen and his sister Jocelyn Shen, 17, created the Phillips Academy Vex Robotics club when they moved to Andover three years ago.  
  
 "I believe that robotics, meshed with the fun of competition, is a great opportunity for anybody hoping to get real world experience with engineering," Shen wrote. "I have been involved with this program for three years now and have done VEX for six. It has truly been an amazing opportunity: I’ve been able to develop my STEM skills and meet other extremely talented individuals. It is a really time-consuming and occasionally stressful program, but the skills I’ve learned and the friends I’ve made totally make it worth it."
 Follow Kelsey Bode on Twitter @Kelsey_Bode.

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