Julian and Brooks Team Up to Win Regional Vex Robotics Championship

February 13, 2012

An alliance of three middle school teams from District 97’s Vex Robotics program, which is run by the Oak Park Education Foundation, took first place in the Great Lakes-Midwest-Illinois Vex Robotics Championship held in Batavia on February 11, 2012. A total of 36 teams from Illinois and Wisconsin—comprised mostly of high school students—participated in the tournament.

Contestants designed, built and programmed robots that competed in a fast-paced game involving picking up plastic balls and cylinders and depositing them in scoring goals of various heights.

After participating in a series of qualifying matches at the tournament, a total of eight Oak Park teams qualified for the finals—six teams from Julian and two from Brooks. Each of the teams ranked in the top eight earned the right to select two alliance partners for the elimination bracket. Seventh ranked “Team Yellow” from Julian selected “Team White” from Julian and “The Loose Bolts Team” from Brooks as its partners. This alliance bested the top-ranked high school teams in the quarter and semifinals, and went on capture the regional championship by sweeping the finals best-of-three (two matches to zero).

“It is not every day that a group of middle school students outperform high school students. This is a tribute to the dedication and months of hard work by these students," said Julian faculty advisor Tim Walsh. Julian mentors Sergio Firpo and Bob Parks credit the team’s success with the durability that resulted from its simple, solid designs, and honing its driving skills. Parks added, “Simon Lee was a combination of Joe Montana and Mario Andretti. He was hands-down the best driver at the event, and his teammates worked with him in perfect concert.” Brooks’ mentors credit the success of “The Loose Bolts” team to its self-reliance, teamwork and years of experience in the club.

As regional champions, the three-team alliance qualifies for the Vex Robotics National and World Championships, which will take place later this spring.

Julian “Team White” members are Mardi Hillengas, Mimi Labruyere, Simon Lee and Jonah Meshenberg. Julian “Team Yellow” members are Diego Firpo, Ethan Mertz, Matthew Mitrovich and Matthew Testore. Brooks “The Loose Bolts” members are Daniel Jenks, Abe Sell, Matthew Wallace and Chris Webb. A total of 44 Oak Park students participated in the Batavia competition.

The Oak Park Education Foundation (OPEF) is a privately funded, non-profit organization bringing experts into K-8th grade classrooms to work hands-on with District 97 students and teachers. In addition to Vex Robotics, OPEF runs Architecture Adventure, LEGO-based Geared Up, Science Alliance, Art Start and summer B.A.S.E Camp. For more information, please contact Deb Abrahamson, executive director of OPEF, via phone (708-524-3023) or e-mail ([email protected]), or visit the foundation's Web site at