Season Preview: Niles West VEX Robotics

Jena Lazar


The Niles West VEX Robotics team hard at work during a competition.

By Sonja Malek, Academics Editor

Although it seems the year has just begun, Niles West’s VEX Robotics team is already gearing up for an exciting season. Last April, a team made up of now-seniors Ethan Moldofsky, Patrick O’Dwyer, Robert Majcher, Adam Majcher and Jay Monga took the state title and advanced to the VEX Robotics World Championship. Another team, composed of now-seniors Alen Cvitanovic, John MitchellKatia Teryokhina, Dennis Angelov and alum Michael Leon, also earned a bid to the world competition last April. Following the immense success of last year’s season, all members of the robotics club are working hard on their bots in preparation for this year’s high level of competition.

Each year, the VEX Robotics organization determines a new robotics challenge that draws competitors from middle schools, high schools, and colleges from across the world. This year’s game, called ‘In the Zone,’ challenges small teams to build a robot that will compete against others to earn the most points in set amount of time. Points are gained by stacking cones in various locations across a playing field, as well as by programming the bots to function during an autonomous period and by parking the bot in a set location before time runs out. A full explanation of this year’s challenge can be viewed here.

The setup for each round of the ‘In the Zone’ robotics challenge.

“This year’s challenge consists of cones instead of stars and cubes,” Adam Majcher explained. “The idea is to stack as many cones onto mobile platforms or tall, stationary towers [as possible]. Like always, the robots start with a 15 second autonomous with a 1 minute 45 second driver control beginning after the winner of the autonomous period is announced.”

After the initial period of autonomous control, drivers are able to control their robots freely. Many will attempt to move the blue and red mobile platforms into point zones in each corner of the field to score additional points.

“In the second part of the game, the drivers are to stack as many cones on the platforms, as possible. The mobile platforms can be moved to the corner of the field past the white tape, thin PVC pipe, or thick PVC pipe, earning point of 5, 10, or 20 points, respectively,” Majcher explained. “If all goes well, a bonus is awarded to the robots that are able to park in the starting position and to the alliance with the highest stack in a zone.”

The first of two robot designs, built and programmed by Ethan Moldofsky, Patrick O’Dwyer, Robert Majcher, Adam Majcher, Jay Monga, and Dennis Angelov.

In order to balance robotics with their varsity sports, state champions Moldofsky, O’Dwyer, Monga, and the Majcher brothers, along with Angelov, who has joined their team this year, have set up their own ‘In the Zone’ playing field and workspace at home. There, they are able to devote much more time designing, building, and programming their robot.

“Since the beginning of the summer, we have began building our ‘In the Zone’ robot. We have already made one design and are currently in the process of making another robot,” Adam Majcher said. “We hope that our work will pay off when the state competition is held. In the recent years, our team has noticed that no matter how good the robot is, a good driver is necessary for success in VEX Robotics, which is why we chose to begin earlier on in the season.”

Junior Muhammad Afzal participated in West’s VEX Robotics club last year, and although won’t be continuing this year, he hopes that all teams will do just as well, if not better, than in previous years.

“VEX can be really lively and disorganized,” he said. “But it’s a really fun environment. Even though I’m not able to do it this year, I still participate in robotics-type events in Science Olympiad. I wish the best of luck to those who are working hard on the new challenge in VEX this year.”

Although many teams of students are already determined and are working in full swing, the club is still welcoming new members who wish to form their own groups and compete. However, they’ll need to work quickly if they wish to compete in the first tournament, which will be held at Niles West on Sunday, October 29. VEX Robotics club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays until 6:00 p.m. in room 1520, and interested students should contact sponsor Tim Sullivan with any questions.