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Photo by Christy Stalnaker  

Bound for Worlds: Hartselle robotics teams advance to VEX competition in Dallas

Teams from Hartselle City Schools advanced to the “largest robotics competition in the world” this past weekend after winning various awards at the state level in Auburn.  

The team of third grade students at Crestline Elementary received the Create Award at the competition. The team is made up of Lila Hood, Jackson Stalnaker, Lane Morehead, Raydyn Morris, Cooper Rabb and Ava-Louise Hill.  

The students “love a challenge,” robotics coach Debbie Lee said.  

“They work well together as a team and have an engineering mindset. They truly think like mechanical engineers,” she added. “I have high hopes for their futures.” 

Photos by Christy Stalnaker

Fourth graders who represent Crestline are Lauralei Bawolek, Asa Smith, Crimson Beasley and Jasper Lowery. While the team did not advance to Dallas due to problems with their robot, Lee said the team worked hard during the competition. 

“At our first competition, they placed fourth out of 55 teams,” Lee said.  

At Barkley Bridge Elementary and Hartselle Intermediate, fourth and fifth grade students make up teams Borgs, Bytes and Bots.  

Team Borgs includes Ryland Fachko, Sadie Menanno and Maggie Tummenillo, John Steven Howell, Braxton Williams, Carson Smallwood and Clay Menanno. 

Team Bytes is made up of Fenix Doyle, Olivia Gaskin and Finley James, Luke Cooper, Mack Jackson and Elijah Glaze. Rhoda Sims, Kaylee Dickerson, Mabry Garnett, Landen Whitbeck, James McGuire, Elijah Barnes and Grady Roberts make up Team Bots.  

Hartselle City Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year Kim Jared is the robotics coach.  

Teams Bots and Borgs clenched first place in the teamwork competition and finished in the top 10 in skills, Jared said.Team Borgs ranked fourth and Bots ranked seventh.  

“Team Bytes persevered through some difficult challenges with their robot and also did a great job,” she added. “I am super proud of all the hard work these kids have put into this robotics season and I am excited to see them get to compete at the Worlds competition.”  

Stephanie Roden is the first-year robotics coach at F. E. Burleson – Roden said the school has not participated in a VEX competition since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“At the beginning of the year when the team began to meet, the students nor I knew anything about robotics,” she said. “We weren’t sure what parts did what, how to put a field together or had a clue how to program a robot.”  

Roden said her students have been hard-working and determined from the beginning.  

“With the help of an engineer mentor, engineering and computer science students from the high school, F. E. Burleson students have learned how to build a robot from scratch and autonomously program. These students have worked up to 15 hours to build a competitive robot on their own. They have a sound knowledge of engineering and design which is evident in the awards the teams have received at past tournaments this year, including the Judge’s Award for showing perseverance through challenges and the Design Award for application of the engineering design process in their build,” Roden said.  

The two robotics teams at F.E. Burleson are Red Rover/35640A and Techno Tigers/35640B. 

Roden said most of the students are third graders, yet they can program a robot in a matter of hours, develop a new design to improve torque and speed in a robot and troubleshoot mechanical engineering problems as they arise.  

“Even at the lunch table, the students are discussing gear ratios,” she added. “Throughout this year, students have learned more than just engineering; they have learned how to communicate to solve problems, how to listen to various ideas, how to document progress in a notebook, how to interview and speak like an expert in a field and have most of all become a tight group of friends.”  

Third grade students Evie Dolan, Lily Kate Garner, James Elijah Harton, Cannon Miles and fourth grader Landon Weeks make up Team Red Rover/35640A.  

On Team Techno Tigers/35640B are third grade students Jayce Hutson, Seth Palmer, Anson Whitfield and Elijah Woods. Cadence O’Neill represents the fourth grade on the Techno team.  

“As a first-year coach, I am exceptionally proud of these students for their resiliency, teamwork and passion to learn about robotics to develop a competitive robot,” Roden said.  

The VEX Robotics World Championship will be held in Dallas, Texas, April 25-May 4. 


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