Photo by Justin Criado

The VEX Robotics Competition qualifier was held at the Sarah Heinz House Friday, Dec. 19. Overall, 48 middle school and high school teams from the tri-state area competed in the day-long tournament.

By Justin Criado

The Sarah Heinz House hosted the VEX Robotics Competition qualifier Friday, Dec. 19 as 48 middle school and high school teams from the tri-state area competed in the day-long tournament.

“This year we had 18 middle school teams and 30 high school teams come and compete,” Christine Nguyen said.

When Nguyen came to the Sarah Heinz House eight years ago as the robotics director the program was limited to one middle school team in one division.

Now, the Sarah Heinz House Advanced Robotics Program (SHARP) features four different teams across four different divisions, including two high school teams, one of which competes in the highest division; First Robotics Challenge (FRC).

“I would say we do have one of the only programs that offers all the different levels and we can take everybody,” Nguyen said. “We’re one of the only ones that do different classes.”

Nearly 100 kids from Northside and surrounding schools participate in the after-school program.

“The robotics is a really good field to get in to in my opinion,” Luke Melcher, 16, of Ross Township said. “I want to go in to building drones for military use.”

Melcher has been a part of the Sarah Heinz House program since third grade, and was on the FRC team that won the 2014 Greater Pittsburgh Regional championship.

The Heinz House hosts two large competitions a year, the next one being an FRC competition in May, which shows the growth in popularity within the field.

For high school competitions, students must develop a remote-controlled robot to complete specific functions and tasks. In order to prepare, VEX and FRC release games at the beginning of each year. This year’s game was Skyrise.

For more information about the Sarah Heinz House robotics program please visit the official website.