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Students have international success at robot competition

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    Top: Kevin, Josh, Lindsay and Nancy Van Deest along with below: Natalie, Julie, Sam and Tony Ippolito celebrate the accomplishments of Josh and Sam, students at Crestmont Christian Preparatory School of Boerne. Submitted photo

Crestmont Christian Preparatory School of Boerne is now home to two regional state champions and world champion finalists.

Josh Van Deest, 8th grade son of Kevin and Nancy Van Deest, and Sam Ippolito, 6th grade son of Tony and Natalie Ippolito, earned three world qualifying awards during the 2020 VEX Robotics World Championship, the world’s largest robotic competition. In the end, they earned the Regional State Championship and Tournament 3rd Place World Finalist awards.

Their season began in May 2019 as Josh and Sam teamed up to become VEXIQ Team #2956X “Cerulean Blue” with Insomnia Robotics. They worked together last summer to design and build a robot that fit within a set of rules and dimensions that could accomplish tasks to score points within the 2019-2020 VEXIQ Challenge Game called “Squared Away.”

Their robot named “Q” was modified throughout the season and a notebook of the entire design process was kept updated to be reviewed by judges at each tournament. Josh and Sam met for two to three hours a day for three days a week throughout the year to design, build, practice driving and strategizing, and compete on weekends. At the tournaments, they had to work with other teams to score as many points as possible together in each match.

Boerne, San Antonio and Austin are all located in the newest Texas Region for VEX Robotics, Texas – Region 4. Josh and Sam competed in eight tournaments: six Region 4 events (including Regional State Championships), one Region 2 event, and one Signature event. They earned seven Teamwork Champion Awards, four Robot Skills Awards, two Design Awards and four Excellence Awards, which is the highest award given at each tournament for overall excellence in all aspects of the competition.

In January at the Kalahari Classic Signature Event in Sandusky, Ohio, Team 2956X “Cerulean Blue” earned their first world qualifier with the Teamwork Champion Award. A few months later at the Region 4 State Championships, they became state champions with the Teamwork Champion Award and the Excellence Award. They were so excited to head to Louisville, Kentucky, on April 26-28 to compete for the top prize – world champion.

There are over 6,800 VEXIQ teams in the world. Of those, 620 teams qualified for the world championship. On Thursday, March 12, those 620 teams from across the world received devastating news: the world competition was canceled amid fears of COVID-19. This is not an event that can be rescheduled and so many hearts were crushed.

Over the next few weeks, the brilliant minds at the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation (REC) and VEX Robotics were able to put their heads together to find a way to create a “Virtual World Celebration and Competition.”

They took the top scores from the entire season for all of the qualified teams and created an algorithm to simulate a fantasy tournament.

Along with teams around the World, Team 2956X Cerulean Blue enjoyed watching the Fantasy Competition from their homes on Saturday, April 25. It was a day of affirmation for their season’s hard work as the scores came in, placing them in first place in their division, the Research Division, out of 89 teams and then in 3rd place in the finals, out of 620 teams. World Medalists! 3rd place out of more than 6,800 teams around the world.

What’s next? Josh and Sam will move up to the next level of competition, VEX Robotics Competition (VRC). They have already begun to make plans for designing a new robot to compete in the 2020-2021 Change Up Game Challenge. They are hopeful to qualify for the 2021 VEX World Championships in Dallas. They know it will be challenging, but let the challenge begin.

The Virtual Championships was streamed live on YouTube and can be viewed at 2020 VEX Robotics Virtual World Celebration & Fantasy Robotics Tournament - IQ.