Arkansas Tech University’s robotics team advanced to the quarterfinal round of its division at the 2023 VEX U Robotics World Championship April 27-29 at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.
ATU overcame electro-mechanical issues during qualification matches to narrowly advance into the division elimination bracket as a No. 16 seed. That’s when ATU team member Chris Osborne, a mechanical engineering major from Bryant, came through with a big play.
“Chris pulled the ole switcharoo on the other team while they were playing defense, and one of their robots ended up flipping over,” said Jacob Weidenfeller, ATU instructor of electrical engineering, lab director and advisor for the ATU VEX U robotics team.
As a result, Arkansas Tech upset the No. 1-seeded team from Orlando, Fla., and advanced to the quarterfinal round of its division before seeing its tournament come to an end. Weidenfeller said that if video replay was allowed for rulings, Arkansas Tech would have advanced to the semifinals. He said that disappointment will serve as fuel for the team as it prepares for 2024.
“That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” said Weidenfeller. “We will be back next year.”
Between the two divisions at the VEX U Robotics World Championship, a total of 16 teams advanced to the elimination bracket quarterfinals.
Osborne was joined on the 2022-23 ATU robotics team by Daniel Andrus of Clinton, Patrick Barnes of Sheridan, Patch Cook of Pottsville, Thomas Dang of Bryant, Collin Easterling of Hope, Lee Edwards of Scranton, Juan Leon of Hope, Wyatt Lester of Sheridan, Hunter Mathis of Hope, Anthony McLain of Bryant, Ryan Nanthalangsy of Sheridan, Braden Pierce of Bryant and Emily Wheat of Sheridan.
Arkansas Tech founded its VEX U robotics program at the beginning of the fall 2019 semester. The team first qualified for the world championship in 2020, but that group was unable to compete because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This spring marked ATU’s first opportunity to participate in the VEX U Robotics World Championship.
“They learn a lot of skills,” said Weidenfeller, who has led the ATU VEX U robotics program since its inception. “They are learning computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing. They use three-dimensional printers to make their own parts as well as CNC (computer numerical control) machines and lathes. They’re also learning how to work together as a team.”
Participation in the ATU robotics team is open to any student regardless of major.
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