Robotics teams prepare for state event


Skilled robotics teams from Oak Grove, Sumrall, Petal, Hattiesburg and around the state are practicing right up to this weekend’s Mississippi VEX Robotics State Championship as the University of Southern Mississippi hosts 132 teams at Payne Center.

Oak Grove Lower Elementary School’s Nadine Amaya said the two-day competition, which begins Friday afternoon, will be good for the Pine Belt.

“There are 31 total teams in the elementary school competition, and Oak Grove has 14 teams,” she said. “This is also the first time that Petal will be competing and they have five teams.”

Five Sumrall Middle School teams will be in action, along with Hattiesburg’s The Institute for Diverse Education (TIDE School) in the middle school division.

One of the Oak Grove Lower Elementary teams that has its sights set on advancing is the Chili Bots, Amaya said.

“Right now, the Chili Bots are in second place in the state for robot skills scores,” she said. “They are second-graders.”

Amaya said Mississippi will have eight slots in the World Championship in April in Louisville, Kentucky, where more than 1,400 of the best VEX competition teams from around the world will compete.

Teams will be demonstrating their robotics skills Friday night with their exhibits and programming. Saturday is reserved for team competition. Some of Amaya’s teams were able to take advantage of some help from other resources in the Lamar County School District.

“We had high school students helping today that are Teacher Academy students,” she said. “One was from SeaPerch Robotics and another was from drama/speech and debate to help the teams with their presentations. Julie Viguerie, who teaches Teacher Academy, came with them.”

This tournament will feature elementary, middle and high school students from across the state in an educational competitive robotics program.  These competitors have been building, programming and driving their robots at local and regional competitions throughout Mississippi to advance to this state championship.

The competition also focuses on teamwork, communication and keeping students engaged in hands-on technology challenges that build their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Registration begins at 3:30 p.m. Friday, followed by skills challenges at 4 p.m. For more information about the state championship, contact Jennifer Richardson at (601) 859-6847 ext. 1038 or