Top-10 World Ranking Propels ATU Robotics to Dallas

ATU Robotics Group Photo Spring 2023
Members of the Arkansas Tech University robotics team present for a recent demonstration of their work were (photographed, from left-to-right) Ryan Nanthalangsy, Collin Easterling, Hunter Mathis, Juan Leon, Thomas Dang and Chris Osborne.

Arkansas Tech University will compete in the 2023 VEX U Robotics World Championship April 27-29 at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.

The ATU robotics team clinched its berth by earning a top-10 world ranking in the skills component of the competition during a VEX U event in Houston, Texas, in March.

“It was something I’ve never been able to do before,” said Chris Osborne, an ATU mechanical engineering student from Bryant, when asked about the Houston competition. “It was an amazing experience. We were undefeated in the qualification rounds and made it all the way to the semifinals. We made some great connections and look forward to doing our best at worlds.”

Osborne is 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.

Jacob Weidenfeller, ATU instructor of electrical engineering and lab director, serves as their advisor.

The 2022-23 VEX U robotics game is an enhanced version of disc golf. Robots distribute approximately 60 discs into targets and have opportunities to earn bonus points through additional applications.

Arkansas Tech founded its VEX U robotics program at the beginning of the fall 2019 semester by identifying team members, many of whom came from ATU’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) registered student organization.

At the end of that semester, ATU robotics won the overall excellence award at a qualifying tournament in Little Rock. ATU’s team earned the right to compete in the 2020 VEX U Robotics World Championship, but that event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three years later, the ATU robotics team has bounced back and is ready to make that long-awaited trip to compete for a 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. It has been great to see everybody working together so well. That contributed to our success at the Houston tournament.”

Arkansas Tech’s involvement in VEX robotics extends to hosting state championships for hundreds of K-12 students each March at Tucker Coliseum.

The Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation manages VEX robotics competitions on a global scale.

“As an experienced robotics mentor, I’ve seen first-hand the engineering skill and leadership expertise that students gain by participating in VEX robotics competition,” said Dan Mantz, REC Foundation chief executive officer. “It’s an experience that will stay with them long after their school days are over, offering a new appreciation for STEM and laying a strong foundation of critical problem-solving, communication and teamwork skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.”

Participation in the ATU robotics team is open to any student regardless of major.

Call (479) 964-0877 or send e-mail to for more information.

Watch a KATV Channel 7 Good Morning Arkansas story about ATU’s robotics team: