N EW PALESTINE — The robot — built on wheels and featuring a claw-type shovel — perched on the table in the cafeteria at Doe Creek Middle School.

Several students from Brandywine Elementary School gathered around it, double-checking things to make sure it was ready to roll.

Middle and elementary school students from across the state sent 43 teams to compete Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Vex IQ Crossover Challenge Tourney, a robotics contest at Doe Creek Middle School.

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The Brandywine students hit a couple of rough spots, they said, when they were putting their robot together. They had some trouble getting the claw-type shovel to lift but eventually figured it out.

“It’s the best learning experience I’ve ever had,” fifth-grade Brayden Thomas said.

Fifth-grade teacher April Manning led the group of 17 students — two teams — from Brandywine Elementary.

She said she loves seeing the students have a chance to be creative, showcase their skills and make new friends.

“We’re pulling in the kids that aren’t always involved in things,” Manning said.

She said she’s seen shy, introverted students grow in confidence from being part of the school’s robotics club.

Doe Creek Middle School science teachers Mary Jones and Jaemala Smith have been working with students to build a top-notch robotics club the past several years.

They’re trying to help the middle school become an accredited science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) school recognized by the Indiana Department of Education.

Jones loved seeing all the students push themselves under pressure and work on their STEM skills.

“It gives them an opportunity to be hands-on and also use their team-building skills,” Jones said.

All the students in the competition had the same challenge — to get the robot to respond and do a task — but the students got to create their own presentation to show off during timed events.

All elementary schools from the Community School Corp. of Southern Hancock County, plus Doe Creek, had teams that participated.

Sugar Creek Elementary School sent six teams, some 35 students under the watchful eye of fourth-grade teacher Jason Spicer.

He said he’s enjoyed watching his students work well together.

“They also reach out and try to work with other teams from other schools to get ideas,” Spicer said.

He encourages his teams to socialize with other schools, make new friends and learn different ideas during the challenges.

Wesley Olin, a sixth-grader at New Palestine Elementary school, was all business. He and teammates, including fourth-grader Ben Wilson, sat off in a corner of the cafeteria testing their robot over and over again before heading out to the main gym for the contest.

Their schoolmate, fourth-grader Cale Mallory, was watching from a distance and admitted the competition can be intimidating; but it’s worthwhile to newcomers, he said.

It’s the school’s first year to have a robotics team.

“It’s fun and kind of neat because you get to play with all the different robots from the different teams,” he said. “Some have done it before and some have not, so you do learn a lot.”

Doe Creek made about $1,500 for its robotic program by playing host to the event.

Contest results

Robotics contest results:

Sugar Creek Elementary School, Digital Dragons 11921B placed third in the teamwork championship finals

New Palestine Elementary School Dragons 2 and Sugar Creek Elementary 11921E Digital Dragons tied for fourth in the teamwork championship finals

Sugar Creek Elementary Digital Dragons 11921D placed sixth in the teamwork championship finals and Brandywine Elementary Robot Dawgs placed sixth in the teamwork championship finals

Doe Creek Middle School Omega Bucks placed fourth in robot skills; they are now ranked 15th in the state.

Doe Creek Middle School Red Dragons placed 14th in robot skills.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.