As the VEX season comes to an end, it’s time to commemorate our Makos’ year of accomplishments and hard work. With in person competitions remaining unavailable due to the pandemic, our teams have been working tirelessly, tweaking autonomous programs and practicing driver runs in an attempt to reach state-qualifying rankings. From our team meetings limited to Zoom for much of the year to the uncertainty of our ability to compete and navigating virtual tournaments, this year has surely not been short of challenges for a season no one could have expected.
Even before the school year started, our Makos were meeting and preparing for a killer season. We held virtual training sessions to make sure all our members were on the same page about part and strategy fundamentals to start out the season well-prepared and well-organized. We continued these sessions through the first semester to get our new Makos up to speed with existing teams as well. Designs were carefully sketched out, discussed, revised, modeled, and discussed again until our teams believed they were ready to start building. School was still fully online, but we weren’t going to let that hinder our season. Taking care of COVID precautions, teams met up outdoors, passed around the robots to different team members to take home, and collaborated on programming skills virtually.
Still, our competition prospects looked bleak. But with our robots in the works, we were eager. Even if competitions looked different this year, we were itching to compete and show off this year’s work. In December, all our teams worked collaboratively on different online competitions as part of the VRC Online Challenges before it finally looked like more traditional competitions were opening up. Team 619A was the first to compete in a virtual skills competition in January, and the virtual skills format definitely took some getting used to. But our first taste of competition in almost a year inspired our Makos to make every moment count.
Continuing our meetings after school as time went on, the Engineering Lab came to life as multiple teams met to build and program and prepare each other for upcoming virtual competitions. The virtual format became more routine and every competition saw a little more improvement in strategy and performance. And just last week, Teams A, B, and C showed up to compete, with Team A totaling 158 points, an achievement that ranks them 4th in the region and secures their spot in the South Florida Regional Championship. It’s been an unconventional year, but our Makos aren’t done yet. Team A is still preparing to advance to States as we begin to focus on underwater robotics and our preparations for next year. Once again, our Mecha Makos have shown that we’re not afraid to tackle rocky waters.
By Valerie Moura