ATU Robotics Team to Compete for World Title

ATU Robotics February 2024
Group photo of the Arkansas Tech University robotics team following the 2024 Texas VEX U Tournament.

Eight Arkansas Tech University students and ATU faculty member Jacob Weidenfeller will depart on Saturday, April 27, to compete in the 2024 VEX U World Championship at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.

Qualification matches will begin on Sunday, April 28, and continue into Monday, April 29. The final round of competition is slated for Tuesday, April 30.

ATU advanced to the quarterfinal round of its division at the 2023 VEX U Robotics World Championship and finished top 16 in the world last year.

Arkansas Tech will be represented at the 2024 VEX U World Championship by Preston Diehl of Conway, Collin Easterling of Hope, Juan Leon of Hope, Hunter Mathis of Hope, Ryan Nanthalangsy of East End, Chris Osborne of Bryant, Everett Otis of Conway and Braden Pierce of Bryant.

“This team, besides Everett and Preston, is comprised of the same people we had last year,” said Weidenfeller. “It’s a very hard-working group of guys. They’re putting in a lot of hours. It’s about culture. Everybody understands what needs to happen. Everybody understands each other’s roles and how to make sure those roles are being performed. These guys have been working well together for the past two years. We’re always going to learn how to do things better, and we’re going to continue being successful.”

Success during the 2023-24 season so far has included a No. 1 national ranking and No. 2 world ranking. The ATU robotics team earned those distinctions during the Texas VEX U Tournament at the Clear Creek Independent School District Robotics Event Center in Houston in February.

Arkansas Tech’s skills challenge score in Houston allowed the ATU team to earn its No. 1 national ranking and No. 2 world ranking as compared to other collegiate robotics teams attempting the same challenge across the nation and the globe.

“We’ve definitely been putting in the hours to try to increase our chances of coming back with an award,” said Easterling.

“Win or lose, we’ve all put in the time and the effort,” said Mathis. “We’ve had a great season.”

Mathis’ statement begs a question: how does the ATU robotics team define success…by improving upon the standard it has set for itself, or by defeating its competition?

“A bit of both,” said Weidenfeller. “When you are successful among peers, that generates a lot of good publicity. We have students come to Arkansas Tech specifically for this program. When Chris (Osborne) came four years ago, our good VEX U program was one of the main selling points.”

Otis said that when the ATU team does well at the collegiate level, it paves the way for more high school teams from Arkansas to compete on the national and international levels.

“Coming from down South and in the country, we might not be as highly regarded as some other groups,” said Otis. “But all of us are from inside the state, and we show the level of competition we can bring and that Arkansas is just as capable as any of the other heavy-hitting states.”

The ATU robotics team includes students from the university’s mechanical engineering and computer science programs. They are able to apply their classroom lessons in the robotics lab.

“Our faculty members encourage us to get this kind of hands-on experience,” said Leon. “With engineering, a lot of people just go to school and take the classes, but they don’t get to apply any of their knowledge and learn how to work on a project with a team until they get to they work on their senior design project. Robotics definitely helps in that regard.”

Now, it’s time for the ATU robotics team to put its best foot forward and find out where it stands in comparison to the best collegiate robotics teams from around the United States and beyond.

“We’re proud to represent Arkansas Tech,” said Weidenfeller. “This group enjoys the opportunity to demonstrate the quality of these students and students at Tech. We want to show that we can do what anyone else can do. The amount of work they’ve put in this year far exceeds what they put in last year.”

Membership in the ATU robotics club is open to all students regardless of major.

Current or prospective Arkansas Tech students seeking more information about the ATU robotics club may send e-mail to