HomeNewsInnovation success: JMCSS hosts first robotics tournament; 1 team headed to state

Innovation success: JMCSS hosts first robotics tournament; 1 team headed to state

The atmosphere in the gym at Arlington Elementary School on Saturday was electric.

Teams from all over the state were in Jackson competing for a shot to go to the state tournament.

A team from Brentwood showed its abilities with the work it had done with its team this season, and it proved to be a juggernaut that is doing things that are innovative that not many other teams are doing.

Jackson-Madison County Schools and Arlington got to enjoy a little history as its own team – the Tennessee Titans – qualified for state – a first for Arlington and the district.

Crowds of parents and competitors gave a round of applause to celebrate those who’d qualified, done well or won other awards like sportsmanship.

But this competition wasn’t a physical sport typically played in a gym like basketball or volleyball.

This was JMCSS’ first-ever robotics tournament, and it’s the second held in Jackson as Jackson Christian hosted one four years ago.

“This is so wonderful to be able to have this and to see all the hard work of everyone come together so well,” said Teresa McSweeney, JMCSS’ chief innovation officer.

Sweeney credited Molly Plyler, who’s the director of STEM and computer science for the district, with putting the tournament together and overseeing the work that brought the tournament to Jackson.

“This is actually the first tournament for any of our robotics students to compete in,” Plyler said. “So for them to compete and to perform at a level that one of the teams actually qualified for state says a lot about the work they put in with their coaches.”

Bobby Smith is the robotics coach at Arlington. Along with the help of Plyler and others throughout the district, they worked with the students who’d already had STEM classes that helped them work with the robotics.

The competition, developed by national robotics company Vex, sold robots to each school. The robots are built and coded by the students themselves as they try to create a machine that brings the most efficient production to score as many points as possible.

This year’s object of the machine is to remove as many orange plastic discs as they can from a pair of elevated holders. They could gain more points by moving the discs to another area of the field.

Students from Arlington, JASA and Denmark competed in the tournament on Saturday with the Tennessee Titans (each team got to name themselves), scored enough points in about a dozen one-minute rounds to finish second and qualify for state in March.

“I’m so proud of all these kids for the work they’ve put in over the past few months,” Smith said. “They’d never done anything like this before last semester, and they learned what they were doing, began doing the work, seeing what was working well and what wasn’t, making adjustments and now getting here to this.”

Plyler said what made JMCSS students’ performances more remarkable was the time they had to do all this.

“We didn’t get the equipment until September, and the students didn’t begin to start their work until October,” Plyler said. “So for most of them to have never worked with any of this before to get to this point says a lot about them.”

The Tennessee Titans, Fabian Taylor and Judah Sparks, will compete for state in Brentwood next month.

“The students learned to figure things out, and both students on the Titans are fourth-graders, so they’ll be back next year and will be able to help newer students as they’re learning like they learned last semester,” Smith said.

“This kind of event shows what innovation education can be and lead to, and different industries like Ford are seeing what we’re doing here at JMCSS and want to see more of it because this kind of education prepares our students to be qualified for jobs at Blue Oval City or other industries already here in Jackson,” McSweeney said. “And this is only the beginning. We’re going to build on this and continue to expand our innovation and STEM education options in Jackson and Madison County.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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