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Photos by Kris Qua

A Vexing Problem!

In December, approximately 150 students from Rensselaer and three local high schools came together on campus to compete in an unofficial competition called “The Game,” which incorporated the Vex Robotic Design System. Vex is used by the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization in its competitions for high school students.

FIRST, founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, sponsors a series of challenges and competitions for K-12 students involving LEGO and Vex robotic technologies.

Nine teams — including four Rensselaer teams that included students in Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) — took part in the competition, which required each team’s robot to retrieve balls from a loading station, negotiate one of several obstacle paths, and place the balls in a scoring container. According to Paul Schoch, associate professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering, the Vex event was set up to do two things: to give students in IED a fun challenge, and to give the high school teams a warm-up exercise to prepare for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) later in the year.

“In terms of complexity and difficulty there is a progression from FIRST LEGO League to Vex to FRC,” says Schoch. “There is also a progression in student ages. What we do is to extend that pipeline into college with our students being mentors for the LEGO and FRC teams,” he says. “We hope that when they leave Rensselaer, they will continue to mentor teams, helping to grow a bigger pipeline with larger numbers of students excited about science, technology, engineering, and math.”

To learn more about Rensselaer’s outreach efforts, see “Pipeline to the Future”.

A sold-out crowd rocked the Houston Field House for the 30th annual Big Red Freakout Jan. 20. The Engineers tied with St. Lawrence, 3-3, preserving their 17-game unbeaten streak in Freakout games (12-0-5). Rensselaer’s Red Army, a new student club on campus devoted to “promoting school spirit and energizing traditions,” helped turn the arena into a sea of red.
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