Teams from three IPS schools participated in the VEX Robotics State Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, March 9.


Elementary and middle school students from Cold Spring School, Sidener Academy for High Ability Students and Wendell Phillips School 63 put their STEM skills to work and their bots to the test for the chance to compete in the 2019 Vex Robotics World Championships in April.


For the third year in a row, Cold Spring’s Eaglebots are moving on to the next round of competition. The school’s A and B teams are headed to the world championships in Louisville, Ky., where they will compete against hundreds of others.


Both teams won first place in their respective divisions.


Team A, with its hydrogenator made with a car alternator, took home the Amaze Award. Team B, with its solar charging station, walked away with the Innovate Award. Team B also was second in the state in overall driving. The teams also hold two of the three highest ranks of over 1,000 elementary school robotics teams in Indiana.


The Amaze Award is presented to a team that has built an amazing, high-scoring robot that clearly demonstrates overall quality. The VEX IQ Innovate Award recognizes a team’s ability to implement an effective and efficient robot design process.


What do they attribute to their success? Simply put, it’s time.


“Many schools will ask us about our kids and their drive and success, and we explain the practice, starting in August for six hours a week — sometimes more — with Saturday practices and not including the tournaments,” said Genevieve McLeish-Petty, who oversees the team with her husband David Petty.


Both are teachers at Cold Spring. McLeish-Petty is the computer science/media director and David Petty is the environmental science and engineering teacher and the lead Project Lead the Way (PLTW) teacher.


The pride in robotics that permeates throughout the entire school building also aids in the success of the teams, which are filled with students who truly want to participate.


“We are competitive and push them, but we explain that is it about them being their best.

The successful teams that we are usually in direct competition with are usually suburban township schools and often private schools,” said McLeish-Petty. “Our kids are just like most IPS kids, we have a mix of demographics, children in poverty, etc. We enjoy showing them that all of that is irrelevant and they are just as capable.”


Each of the Cold Spring teams that advanced include a mix of boys and girls in Grades 5-6, and, on average, are comprised of some veteran members: a computer savvy ‘coder’ in the making; an artsy kid to work on the book; and someone who wants to work on the engineering notebooks and the STEM project, but who’s not really interested in driving a robot.


“We worked to balance the teams,” said McLeish-Petty.


Since becoming involved with the program, the Pettys love watching the students figure things out as they’re working on their robots and enjoy that they participate in a competition that is about innovation and thinking.


“(Through the robotics program), students are given a huge boot to their self-esteem. They are finding success in using their ideas and their perseverance,” said McLeish-Petty. “Students who doubt themselves learn to push through. Students who have not seen themselves as good at something, find their niche.”