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Developing STEM Skills: 2024 VEX Robotics Tournament Preview

St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) is getting set to host the 8th iDESIGN Central Toronto VEX Robotics Competition, bringing students from across Ontario together to compete in the full-day tournament on February 10, 2024.

The tournament will feature the VEX Robotics Competition Over Under game, where each team plays 5-6 rounds in a two-vs-two format. Teams attempt to accumulate the most points by scoring balls in the opposing goal area and having their robot lift itself up at the end of the match, with more points awarded for greater heights.

SMCS staff and students preparing gym for VEX Robotics Competition.
SMCS staff and students setting up the gymnasium for the iDESIGN Central Toronto VEX Robotics Competition.

“We hope that a few of our teams will be able to place high enough in the rankings to make it to the provincial championships,” says Patrick Feghali, teacher and co-moderator of the SMCS VEX Robotics Club. “We can accomplish our goal by placing well in the tournament or by performing well in the skills challenges, where one robot is placed in a field with the aim to score as many solo points as possible.”

The provincial championships take place on February 23 and 24. In 2023, SMCS Team 6060X, comprised of Grades 9 and 10 students, placed in the top 20 during the provincial tournament that saw more than 60 teams compete.

“My goals heading into this tournament are to win a couple of rounds and do well in the skills section,” says Luke Fadel, Grade 10, who has been a member of the VEX Robotics Club since September 2022. “The skills section aims to show how well a driver can pilot their robot and is graded with a number representing (in this case) how many points you score. I also hope to qualify for semi-finals (provincials).”

Fadel and his team stay after school every day to work on their robot and prepare for the upcoming tournament – even coming to school on some weekends to work!

“Our team members come from a wide variety of backgrounds,” says Feghali. “Some of the students in the club also take the Grade 11 robotics course, which focuses on the VEX system used in the club. Students find a great deal of overlap between what they learn in the course and the skills they need in the club, including building and programming the robot.”

SMCS VEX Robotics team competing in the 2023 competition.
SMCS students competing in last year’s VEX robotics competition.

Luke Galle, Grade 11, has been part of the VEX Robotics Club since 2022 and credits the club with helping him develop a passion for engineering and design.

“I joined the VEX Robotics Club as it provided me with an opportunity to continue to develop my passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” says Galle. “The club also allowed me to develop my creativity, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills in a supportive environment.”

The iDESIGN Central Toronto VEX Robotics Competition itself also helps improve our students’ growth and development in two main ways.

Feghali explains, “Firstly, students are able to set and work towards goals in the development of a robot. On the actual day, they have a great opportunity to develop their communication and networking skills as they make alliances with other teams from other schools. A second way is that our students play a key role in the setup of the tournament, so they get a first-hand look at the logistics required to put on such a large event.”

“Heading into this upcoming tournament, our team hopes to represent St. Mike’s proudly and competitively with a fully functioning and efficient robot,” says Galle. “Furthermore, we hope to work collaboratively as a team to accomplish various challenges presented to us at the competition. The VEX Robotics teams strive to represent St. Michael’s as best we can while embodying the virtues of the school.

‘Overall, my robotics club experience has been amazing. It ignites your curiosity about technology and fosters various skills in a fun and interactive way. What is more fun than building robots, exploring coding, testing creative ideas, and making new friends?”

The 2023 iDESIGN Central Toronto VEX Robotics Competition.
The 2023 iDESIGN Central Toronto VEX Robotics Competition.

Read five fast facts about this year’s tournament:

  1. 45 teams from around Ontario will be at SMCS participating in the competition.
  2. SMCS has three teams competing in the tournament.
  3. Teams can spend more than 150 hours designing, building, and testing their robot in preparation for these tournaments.
  4. SMCS VEX Robotics teams usually participate in 1-2 tournaments every year, not including provincials.
  5. The SMCS VEX Robotics Club was founded in the 2010-11 academic year by Frank Heijmans.

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