January 23, 2015

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Robotics teams overcome challenges to become champs

Members of the robotics team at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis fine-tune their robot during the Robotics Championship in November. Andrew Watkins, left, Garrett Johnson, Jose Garcia and Armon Badgett are in the forefront while Ajay Pandya is partially hidden in the back. (Submitted photo)

Members of the robotics team at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis fine-tune their robot during the Robotics Championship in November. Andrew Watkins, left, Garrett Johnson, Jose Garcia and Armon Badgett are in the forefront while Ajay Pandya is partially hidden in the back. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Jose Garcia jumped from his seat.

Garrett Johnson leaped into the air.

And that was just the beginning of the fun for the two high school freshmen as they joined in the celebration of a championship that didn’t seem possible just three days earlier.

On the Thursday evening before the Third Annual Indy VEX Robotics Championship in November, Jose and Garrett were part of the frustrated robotics team at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis—a team that watched in disappointment as three sets of gears on their robot snapped.

And yet here they were on Sunday evening—after three days of testing, improvising and fine-tuning under pressure—jumping with joy.

Just seconds earlier, it had been announced that the alliance formed between their team, the team from Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis and the team from Irvington Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis had just won the VEX Tournament Champion award.

Suddenly, four months of designing and programming a robot led to some unforgettable human reactions.

“I was in the air,” Garrett recalled. “I was jumping around and yelling.”

Jose smiled and added, “When I saw we won, I just jumped out of my seat. The feeling I had was just amazing.”

Garrett chimed in again, “To be honest, it was surprising. We stuck together, we conquered our problems, and we went out and showed it. We were able to work together to get the most out of our robots.”

Seeing that persistence in the Providence Cristo Rey team members was just as satisfying as seeing them hold the championship trophy, said the team’s three coaches—Jon Osborn, Elaine Grant and Anna Sluka.

“What’s so special is that we spent 12 hours on Saturday and 13 hours on Sunday at the competition, and the kids didn’t crack,” Sluka said. “They kept their focus, and they kept their attitude together.”

That approach made the four months of planning and preparation worthwhile for Jose, Garrett and the other members of the Providence Cristo Rey robotics team: Armon Badgett, Kaylyn Hicks, Ajay Pandya and Andrew Watkins.

That approach was also shared by the 27 members of the Bishop Chatard robotics team, including the four students who created the robot that competed during the city championship: Joe Bormann, Jackson Frederick, Thomas Horlander and Jacob Pletcher.

“Winning the alliance championship was a validation of all of the hard work and planning that our kids have put into their robots,” said Amanda Horan, who coaches the Bishop Chatard robotics team with Gary Pritts. “It gave our entire team confidence and motivation.”

Both teams know the joy of a championship—and the joy of the journey.

“It’s just amazing,” Jose said. “You get to spend time with your friends. And you not only get to direct a robot but build it, design it and program it. We all cooperated in what we had to do. If somebody needed help, we would all be there for each other.” †

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