The Mechanics of Jenison Robotics

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If the world of Robotics is as mysterious to you as the inner workings of a space launch, fear not, we’re here to help get you caught up!
To start you off, a quick vocabulary lesson:
VRC = Vex Robotic Competition
VEX IQ = Jenison’s Robotics program for 4 – 6 graders
Alliance:  When two teams are randomly matched and must work together in competition.
Jenison Robotics = “Jenison Robotics was formed to help support robotics and other STEM activities that aim to inspire and motivate students. We stage team based robotics contests where students learn to participate in a fun, enriching, and worthwhile experience.” [courtesy of Jenison Robotics website]
124Now that you’re in the loop, it’s important to know that for Jenison Robotics to be part of the VRC means that we are in good company with more than 12,000 teams from 33 countries playing in over 1,000 tournaments worldwide. It is the largest and fastest growing middle school and high school robotics program globally and VEX IQ programs are designed around the sports competition model.

According to Adam Timmer, Jr High Robotics Coach and Mentor, “This brings the fun and excitement of competition and transfers it into a program that gets students excited about science, mathematics, and innovation. Each new yearly season brings a new and exciting game with a new challenge for the students to solve with new game pieces for the robots to manipulate.”

In preparation for their competitions, Jenison Robotics forms teams of about 4 students each. “The students on these teams work together to design and build their robot, as well as drive it in competitions. The teams meet once or twice a week for two hours and volunteer mentors/coaches are assigned to each team to keep an eye on the teams and help point them in the right direction to find the answers when the students are looking for solutions to challenges, but the students do all the work. Most Jenison Robotics teams will compete in a five event league that competes every other week, and then in two Saturday tournaments. Teams start a few weeks after school begins in the fall, and for most teams their last competition will be the second week in January.”

134This month, Jenison High School played host to 46 teams from around the state! Throughout the competition the students must work within their alliances and compete against another alliance on a 12′ by 12′ field play in a two minute match, trying to attain a higher score than the opposing alliance. Their goal is to move balls from the playing field surface into a low goal [for 1 point each ball] or a high goal net [for 5 points each].

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“The most important attributes for a student needs to excel in this robotics program is a willingness to learn and to be part of a team. This program is exciting because we see all types of students enjoying and excelling in these robotics programs… from the “mathlete”, to the athlete. We’ve even had parent of students that have ADHD, excited to tell us their student loves the hands-on learning found in our robotics program.” 


In addition to learning valuable engineering skills, students gain life skills such as teamwork, perseverance, communication, collaboration, project management, and critical thinking. The VEX Robotics Competition prepares students to become future innovators with 95% of participants reporting an increased interest in STEM subject areas and pursuing STEM-related careers.

Congratulations to the Jenison Robotics teams as well as all of the competing teams at this month’s tournament! It is thrilling to see our STEM subjects show real life application with passionate students!

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