Super Smart

Boulder team wins top honors at the VEX Robotics World Championships

A trio of engineering whiz kids from Friends’ School in Boulder won top honors at the VEX Robotics World Championships in Anaheim, California last weekend.

Quinn Kiefer, 7, Cameron Hoeffler, 10, and Jack Kiefer, 10 created a robot that outmanuevered and outshone robots from 71 teams in the new VEX IQ elementary and middle school division.

The Rocky Mountain ∏rates (Pirates) won the Excellence Award – the event’s highest prize – as well as 1st place in the Teamwork Challenge, and 3rd place in the Robot Skills category.

“It was awesome,” Cameron told us.

In three days of intense competition, the boys impressed the judges with their knowledge, creative engineering and team work. Together, they built a unique robot that could move tennis balls from point A to point B.

Elementary my dear?  Hardly.

About six weeks ago, the team received a VEX IQ kit with snap-together plastic pieces, motors and sensors, and a description of the contests their robot would participate in. Guided by coaches Jason Kiefer and Cathy Olkin, the team built and named their robot “The Elephant Bot” because of its unique adjustable “trunk” that incorporated a clever conveyer system.  

“Seventy one teams received the same equipment at the same time with the same objective – to build a robot that could move tennis balls with speed and accuracy. And each team came up with a different robot,” explained Cameron’s mom Carol Hoeffler.

In a full-on arena style contest, the remote-controlled robots faced off in field events, while fans cheered on.

And Elephant Bot killed it.

The awards ceremony, held in the Anaheim Convention Center, was attended by thousands and featured an appearance by the UCLA Bruins marching band.

“When they called our teams’ name we went crazy,” Cameron said.

“These boys designed, built, started over, re-designed and perfected. Then they brought the robot to the competition and had to adapt it to the contests as they went along,” Carol says. “We’re really proud of them.”

Part of the competition includes an in-depth interview with just team members – no adults – to verify that the robot is strictly a student production. The Rocky Mountain ∏rates conversed with the co-founder of VEX Robotics and two top engineers from Texas Instruments.     

“We showed them our ideas, our designs and answered a lot of questions. They were really curious about our robot and they liked it a lot,” Cameron said.

Cameron told us that he’s getting back into the swing of 5th grade since the championships. He and his Rocky Mountain ∏rates teammates already have their eye on the 2014 World Championships, contemplating next year’s challenge.

“But I’m just hanging out for now,” he said with a smile. 

To get a real flavor for the VEX Robotics World Championships, watch the just-released recap video here.



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