Our Robotics Learning Adventure

On February 27, 2019, we had the honor of hosting the Panama Vex Robotics Championship thanks to the support from 123 Edu and Vex Robotics. It was a phenomenal experience and an achievement to be celebrated with ISP taking home first place along with the best design and the excellence award! This team will go on to represent our school and Panama in the #VexRobotics

World Championship in Kentucky next month. The middle school Cyberdolphins finished the day in 2nd place and also won the best design.  

We spoke with Jose Rios, one of ISP’s Robotics mentors about how this journey began. “ I remember when Carlos, one of the Robo Dolphins was in sixth grade we started an after-school electronics club. Students would bring in old or broken electronic toys, we would work together to take them apart and then rebuild them into robots using the motors from the toys. These were our first robotics projects at ISP.”

Flash forward from that moment and ISP now has a Panama National Championship Team in the RoboDolphins, who are the number one ranked team in Central America and the number three ranked team in South America. This team is now headed to their second Vex Global Championship in Louisville Kentucky, in April. Moreover, Vex Robotics has spread to the middle school under the guidance of Bill Hatcher.

Both Jose and Bill agree that having Vex Robotics allows us to teach advanced robotics, given that it is a world class robotics program, not just a competition. The students working on these projects not only learn how to compete in the tournaments they learn about automatization robotics, and how they can use these skills to build autonomous or remote-controlled robots. These skills translate to real-world applications as the students have already used their know how to create robots that have inspected crawl spaces on our campus as well as a robot that could detect gas leaks in the cafeteria and science labs.

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As Jose and Bill explain the students learn a lot more than robotics. As they work to resolve logic and mechanical problems they learn the value of teamwork and effective communication for problem-solving. According to Bill “What’s cool about Vex is that beyond learning about robotics the key learning is collaboration. It is much more than just a technical and technological competition.”  

Watching these students compete last month was intense. After a round of competition, the teams scramble back to make adjustments, solve problems, and even make repairs. “What amaze me is the team's attitude, when they lose they don’t despair, on the contrary, they pick themselves up and go at again, coming back even stronger” adds Jose. Those moments are perhaps the most impactful and rewarding learning these students experience.

It was wonderful to watch the middle school CyberDolphins and high school RoboDolphins cheer each other on. They are certainly inspiring each other to reach even further.   As we look forward to the next competition, we know this is only the beginning and the future is bright!