And it begins – kickoff time at the State Championship

The RoboDawgs are moved in and ready at the State VEX Robotics Championship! Twelve High School and six Middle School teams have qualified and are here to play today.


A big day for the RoboDawgs

It’s 6am, and the RoboDawgs are on the move.  After a 15 hour FRC build day yesterday, the team is up and running!  Off to the State of Michgan VEX Championship!  Then, after some RoboDawg VEX Robotics teams qualify for the VEX World Championship, we’ll be back to the Robotics Center for another six hours of work on our FIRST Robotics robots!  Here we go!

New RoboDawg 3D printers working overtime

Grandville High School teacher Mike Evele continues to attract a large donor base on Donors Choose.  His most recent Donors Choose project, shown below, was initiated in January and former students and robotics team members made several of the early contributions.  The fundraising site was then promoted during a recent regional robotics event.  Donors at the event made short work of this project, completing the funding needed within four hours.

Over the past three weeks, the team received three new 3D printers – bringing our family of 3D printers to eight machines from five manufacturers.  We now print in Nylon, Fiberglass, PLA, HIP, PET, ABS, and carbon fiber.  And printing we are – our fleet of 3D printers are running close to 24 hours a day right now as we churn out parts for our FIRST Robotics Competition Robots!  A large group of RoboDawgs work with these machines, led by a small group of dedicated students who work with the 3D Printers and our CNC machine every week throughout the year.  This group of leaders includes Julianna Buck, Ellie Clark, Kyle Petersen, Hannah Evele, Evan Vandermate, Coley Spicuzza, Elisa La Barge, Curtis Lynn, Timothy Leaver, Jarod Parks, Kyle Hiller, Joshua Bolter, Skijlar Howerzyl, and Andy Hobelsberger.

Photos of items running on the printers today are at the bottom of this post.  Thank you to all the generous donors who helped us get the new 3D printers!





Registration open for Summer 2017 VEX Robotics Camp

Registration is now open for the 2017 Summer Camp hosted by the RoboDawg coaches. This year there is only one session of this week-long engineering and programming camp held each August at beautiful Camp Newaygo. This five day camp which runs from August 13-17 helps students develop strategies and robots to compete in the world-wide VEX Competition. Campers eat, sleep, play – and do robots! Every day includes lots of time to build and program, but campers also engage in traditional summer camp activities at the waterfront, on the ropes course, on the ziplines, and in other areas of the camp. More photos and information from prior year camps can be found in other RoboDawg blog posts.  To register, just click here “REGISTER NOW

Grandville Hosts West Michigan Regional VEX Championship

Yesterday, Grandville High School hosted the 2017 West Michigan Regional VEX Championship.  The top 48 High School and Middle School VEX Robotics teams from Districts in Western Michigan came together to compete for the opportunity to advance to the State VEX Robotics Championship.  (The State Championship will be held on Sunday, February 19, at Michigan State University.)

Herman Miller and X-Rite have been long-time sponsors of robotics teams in West Michigan, and both organizations provided judges for yesterday’s Championship.  Many of these school teams receive their primary support from organizations like Grand Rapids Junior Robotics, Hudsonville Robotics, Michiana Youth Robotics,  Caledonia Robotics, and Jension Robotics.

WOOD TV8 covered the event, and they have an excellent set of photos from the Championship on their website.

Tournament results are below – the twelve High School teams and ten Middle School awards that advance to the State Championship are marked with an asterisk.

VEX Robotics is the largest and fastest growing High School and Middle School competition in the world, with more than 16,000 teams in 40 countries. Learn more about the 2016-2017 VEX Robotics Challenge, Starstruck, by clicking here.



Why don’t we do it in a tent???

vex-halloween-tournament-2016-12-of-11The VEX Robotics program in West Michigan continues to grow dramatically each year.  Thanks to the efforts of parents and organizers, more than a dozen new competitive robotics programs have sprung up in school districts all over the state.  Over the last three years, in our area, major VEX Robotics programs have started in schools including Hudsonville Public Schools, Jenison Public Schools, Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools,  Kenowa Hills Public Schools, Caledonia Public Schools, and Portage Public Schools.   VEX Robotics is the largest competitive robotics program in the world, with more than 590 teams in Michigan alone.

This rapid growth has put pressure on event organizers all over Michigan to expand the capacity of their VEX tournaments.  Only two years ago, it was common to hold 24 team tournaments in West Michigan.  This year, events have had huge waitlists and it has become common to run events hosting twice that many teams.

For the past three years, there has been a well-attended Halloween VEX tournament in West Michigan.  This fall, Grandville hosted the Halloween tournament and the waitlist quickly grew.  We cut registration off at 36 teams, then increased registration to 48 teams, and then let another seven teams in from the waitlist to bring the event up to 55 teams.  This was a great opportunity to hold one of the largest events in Michigan – but where were we going to hold it?

Grandville Public Schools has been tremendously supportive of our robotics program here, particularly under superintendents Ron Caniff and Roger Bearup.  We have the biggest and best Robotics Center in the state of Michigan, and we regularly host 30-40 teams for weekly robotics league play.  Our Robotics Center, however, will not accommodate 55 teams.  So we started to look around the District for space.  Grandville Public Schools is one of the top-rated Districts in the state, and you can see one of the reasons why when you start to look for competition space in our buildings.  Our High School had four major events scheduled on the date of the Halloween tournament, as well as a dozen practice times for sports, the fall play, and activities with other student groups.  The middle school was completely booked, as were the gyms and multipurpose rooms at elementary schools across the district.  This is one busy district, and our buildings are very highly utilized.  Where were we going to hold this huge Halloween tournament?

As usual, the answer came from our own Mike Evele.  A founder of the Grandville robotics program in 1998, and a high school physics teacher who can think so far outside the box that we often wonder if there is a box, Mr, Evele asked – “Why don’t we do it in a tent?”

And so we did!  On Friday, October 28th, the Grandville High School Robodawgs set up to host a tournament inside a giant circus tent erected outside the Grandville Robotics and Engineering Center.  Bleachers were erected and level floors were built up to support competition and practice fields.  Lights were hung, field electronics were installed, and power and wireless internet were extended into the tent – using nearly a mile of power and ethernet cable.  Tent heaters were brought in, and more than 500 feet of runner was put down to keep teams from walking on the wet ground.  We even brought in popcorn and slushy machines!

The 3rd annual Halloween VEX Tournament ran smoothly under the Big Top, and the event saw a finals match that included multiple teams that will certainly play all the way to the World VEX Championship.

Special thanks to Havit Supplies, NAPA Auto Parts, and Custom Electronics for supplying us with the tent, bleachers, tables, chairs, sound boards, cables, and equipment needed to run this event.  And to Verdell Hall, Tom Chicklon, Chuck Parks, Rosemary Hepfer, Rick Veldheer, Donna Bos, Tim Bos, Scott Hammond, Peggy Monroe, and the four dozen other adult volunteers who helped us pull this off.  Most of all, our hat is off to our own Dr. Evil, without whom we never would have thought about doing it in a tent…….


RoboDawgs put up strong showing at first VEX Tournament of the season

Grandville VEX teams got off to a strong start when they opened their season on Saturday, October 1, 2016 at Traverse City.  Playing at the Northwest Michigan Regional Qualifier, our teams claimed six of the top nine spots.  All teams went at least 5-2 during qualifying matches, and two teams (244A and 244B) both went undefeated.  Congratulations to the members of these top performing teams!

Thomas Bos – Team 244A (captain)
Nicholas Scott – Team 244A
Nathaniel Clinger – Team 244A
Julianna Buck – Team 244B (captain)
Madeline Buckler – Team 244B
Kateri Flynn – Team 244B
Ellie Clark – Team 244D (captain)
Matt Martell – Team 244D
Parker Graham – Team 244D
Hannah Evele – Team 244F (captain)
Evan Vandermate – Team 244F
Justin Irish – Team 244F
Timothy Leaver – Team 248E (captain)
Khanh Pham – Team 248E
Pierce Mentalewicz – Team 248E
Patrick West – Team 288A (captain)
Kelly Herb – Team 288A
Ingrid Perea – Team 288A