Two teams advance to state robotics competition

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Robotics programs are continuing to expand across Mississippi as Oak Grove’s two elementary schools have teams that have advanced to state competition.

 For Oak Grove Upper Elementary School, this will be the first year that the school has sent a team.

Oak Grove Lower Elementary School is an old hand at robotics behind teacher/robotics coach Nadine Amaya.

 The school hosted the Oak Grove Robotics League finals Monday with 21 teams and the second annual Oak Grove Robotics Tournament on Tuesday with 30 teams from Gulfport to New Hope.

Amy Massey is the robotics coach for Oak Grove Upper Elementary School and was directing the competition at Tuesday’s tournament.

 She said her students are beginning to get the hang of the robotics competition.

“Our principal, Heather Roland, has wanted to expand the robotics to the Upper Elementary,” she said.

“We have received five grants – three from Walmart and two from VEX IQ – that total about $3,000. That pays for about five kits to build robots.”

Massey teaches EXCEL students, who compete on three Robotics League teams and three other teams.

This year, one team qualified for the state competition.

“Our goal is to qualify for state competition,” she said. “We think we are able to do that because we have very supportive parents and administration.”

VEX IQ is a snap-together robotics system designed to teach students science, technology, engineering and math concepts while also building lifelong skills in teamwork, communication, problem-solving and leadership.

Amaya said she was pleased with the invitational tournament, which was postponed because of Friday’s snowfall.

“Robotics gives our children invaluable experience that will impact their future as well as our community’s future,” said Amaya, who was recently inducted into the VEX IQ World STEM Hall of Fame as Teacher of the Year.

 “Our program, now in its third year, continues to grow and now includes students at Oak Grove Upper Elementary School.”

The robotics program has been steadily growing across the Lamar County School District with teams also forming at Purvis Upper Elementary and Sumrall Middle schools.

Amaya is also mentoring teams at neighboring schools, including Petal Primary and the TIDE School in Hattiesburg.

In past years, Oak Grove Lower Elementary teams have earned spots to the VEX IQ World Championship and have won trophies at both the state championship and various other tournaments across Mississippi.