Between competing against 120 teams from around the world, claiming a world championship title and taking a trip to Disneyland, the past week has been a whirlwind for Northwestern Elementary School’s Pixelated Piranhas.
The student robotics team traveled to Anaheim, California, last week for the four-day 2014 VEX IQ Robotics World Championship. Coached by Mike Carmain, the team consists of fourth grader Gavin Nielander, fifth grader Ainsley Butler, sixth grader Blake Andrew and sixth grader Jada McDaniel. The Pixelated Piranhas came away with the judges’ Think Award, third place overall in the Programming Challenge and the elementary world championship title for the Teamwork Challenge.
“This group has a lot of teamwork. They really worked together and tried to help each other,” said Carmain, who has never had a team win a world championship before.
To win the Teamwork Challenge, the group advanced through 10 rounds of competition. They were randomly paired with a different team each round and had to collaborate to have their robots work together to move balls to different goals set up around a 4-foot-by-8-foot arena.
Andrew was the primary driver going into the final round, which the Pixelated Piranhas won by just three points. Nielander was appointed as secondary driver, while the girls cheered them on. Having the end of the competition broadcast on the big screen for everyone to see only added to their nervousness.
“I was hoping I would get to drive in the final round, but we had to do what was best for the team, so we went with our most consistent driver,” said Butler, the team’s second stage gearing builder. “It was a bunch of pressure on the drivers. It’s like ‘You’ve gotta make it, you’ve gotta make it!’”
They made it.
“Pretty much the only thing going through my head was ‘Wow!’” said McDaniel, who handled programming for the team.