Monroe robotics students show high character in world competition

Masuk robotics students help a team from Uganda rebuild its robot during the world competition in Dallas, Texas.

Monroe students competing in the VEX Robotics World Championships at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, already had a lot on their minds, but when another team from Uganda needed help with its robot, they lent a hand.

“It was a total fluke,” teacher William “Bill” McDonough, who heads Monroe’s robotics program, recalled. “I happened to be at the inspection station. They had no tools, no extra parts and their robot didn’t fit. I looked at their robot. It needed a lot more than trimming of axles.”

Some members of Masuk’s Team 4478N and 4478E helped Uganda team members rebuild their robot, so it would pass inspection.

“And we were managing our own matches, practices and maintenance, so it was a juggling act,” McDonough said. “They stayed with us for about five hours that day in our pit, working with our teams. They had lunch with our teams. Everyone got to learn from each other a little bit.”

“We just went to the Super Bowl of robotics. How can you not be excited and learn from that?” — William “Bill” McDonough

“One of our core goals is we try to make every team around us better,” he said, “because if everyone else is better, it forces us to be better. We have mentored many other teams in the Connecticut area, so that’s really nothing new for them.”

Joining Masuk’s teams, was middle school team 8878J.

The tournament had one practice match followed by 10 qualification matches, before teams formed alliances for the elimination rounds.

Last year, Team 4478E was the first in Connecticut’s history to make it to the finals, reaching the semifinals of the competition — and the first to win a division in the VEX World Championships.

It was a tougher go this year, but 4478E made it the furthest among Monroe’s teams, posting a 6-4 record, while accumulating 15 bonus points to make it to the elimination round. Masuk finished in Elimination Round 16, in which 32 teams had formed 16 alliances to compete.

Masuk’s Team 4478N had a 5-5 record, but did not advance. McDonough said his students made significant changes in rebuilding their robot for the competition.

“They learned a valuable lesson from taking on too much and how that can affect their ability to be successful,” he said.

Monroe had young robotics teams in its program this year, so McDonough said all of the students, especially the middle school team members, gained valuable experience from the competition.

A group photo of Monroe’s three robotics teams.

“I thought it was a great success,” he said of worlds. “All of our teams gained experience and I think everyone came home learning something from their experience. We just went to the Super Bowl of robotics. How can you not be excited and learn from that?”

On Monday night, students were already working on new robots.

“Now we’re picking up the pieces and preparing for next season,” McDonough said. “Our next game is Over, Under.”

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