CARBONDALE — While some high schools battled on basketball courts Saturday during mid-winter tournaments, a different kind of battle was taking place in the cafeteria at Carbondale Community High School. 

High school students from Illinois and Missouri were participating in a Vex Robotics Competition, the first hosted by CCHS.

Dallas Terry, director of career and technical education at CCHS, said the program fosters teamwork and problem solving, as well as enhancing education in science, technology, engineering and math skills

(STEM). Five teams from CCHS and two from Murphysboro High School were among the participants.

Each match features two teams and their robots playing against two other teams and robots. Points are scored by moving beach balls and smaller “Bucky” balls into the scoring area of the court or by placing Bucky balls into a hexagon-shaped tubes.

Brandon Morrison, a CCHS freshman, said the object is to score as many points as possible, as well as knock opponents’ balls to the “no zone” where no points can be scored.

Mike Humm advisor for Murphysboro High School was excited when team 9571M with students Todd Haney, Nathan Baker and Luke Russell moved into first place at about 2:25 p.m. CCHS team 1142B of Mikolos Buila, Andrew Burke and Orion Fiorino-Matthews followed closely in second.

“Nathan and Luke made the robot. I’m just an experienced driver,” Todd joked.

At the end of the day, Murphysboro was not in first place, but they did not go home empty-handed. They took home the Judges Award.

Tournament champions were Team 1142B of CCHS and Team 3885A of Unitec Career Center in Bonne Terre, Mo. The Excellence Award went to Team 5430B of Parkway West High School in Balwin, Mo. CCHS Team 1142B also received the Design Award, while Team 3885A of Unitec Career Center in Bonne Terre took the Sportsmanship Award.

Martin Hebel, associate professor, ASA School of Information Systems and Applied Tech at SIU, was named volunteer of the year.

“This is the future. It’s kind of like a toy that gives common core classes. The other thing it teaches is teamwork,” Humm said.

As he spoke, a student from St. Louis offered suggestions to improve Murphysboro’s robots. Humm said that is the kind of collaboration that students will experience in their future careers.

Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Herrin and Carterville, and is the food writer for The Southern.

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