The three members of Plainwell Middle School robotics team Trial and Error (at far right) pose with competitors from other countries. (Photo provided)
Members of Plainwell Middle School’s robotics team Bad Bananas (at far right) interact with members of other teams. (Photo provided)
Members of Team Trial and Error share a laugh during the VEX World Championship in Dallas. (Photo provided)
By Jason Wesseldyk
The VEX Robotics World Championship took place in Dallas beginning Thursday, April 27, and running through Saturday, April 29.
Of the 488 teams from around the world that participated in the event, 12 were from Michigan. And of those 12, two teams—Team Trial and Error along with Team Bad Bananas—were from Plainwell Middle School.
This marked the first time the Plainwell Robotics Club sent a team—let alone two teams—to the World Championship.
“This was a first for us in other ways, too,” Plainwell Robotics Club communication coordinator Lisa Cook said. “It was also the first time in Texas for our students and one coach and it was the first plane trip for one team member.”
Knowing they would be competing against some of the best team in the world, team members from the Plainwell squads went into the competition with one primary objective: to learn from their student colleagues and to enjoy fully this unique opportunity.
“Our teams experienced both wins and losses, but we never lost our fighting spirit,” one of the coaches said.
According to Cook, the students reported especially enjoying the “unforgettable” opportunity to meet and network with students from so many different places. They particularly enjoyed interacting with a team from London, which occupied a neighboring booth.
The Plainwell students—Team Trial and Error members included Mai Nguyen, Liam Preuninger and Erica Klein, while Team Bad Bananas members included Parker Montange, Blaine Rensi and Luca Cassada—were also excited about the matches when they were allied with Chinese teams.
The Plainwell contingent said the Chinese robots were “very impressive,” while members of the Chinese teams were “kind and cooperative.”
Marie Tsuji, Sarah Orr, Curtis Orr and Dan Klein served as coaches for the Plainwell teams.
“Our sincere congratulations go to these talented students and dedicated coaches,” Cook said. “One coach mentioned it was almost overwhelmed being with so many young people all focused on the same thing at the same time.”
According to Cook, the Plainwell students marveled at the size of the venue and were excited to have met so many “friendly and gracious” people during the trip.
“Everyone also mentioned how impressed—and a bit amazed—at how different many of the robots were compared to what they had seen before at local tournaments during the year,” Cook said. “On a separate, but related note, they also reported thoroughly enjoying their first experience with authentic Texas BBQ.”
As the Plainwell students arrived home, they reflected on their amazing experience “with memories to last for a lifetime.”
Cook and others in leadership for the Plainwell Robotics Club were quick to thank the sponsors and those who donated to make the trip to the World Championship possible.
“Without their generous support, a World Championship competition would still be a dream rather than the real-life experience,” she said.
You can learn more about the Plainwell Robotics Club and its sponsors at plainwellroboticsclub.org.