Robotics Spark Oak Grove TwinsBy BUSTER WOLFE,
Fourth-graders Jacob and Katie Roark missed their soccer game last Saturday morning. But that was OK, because they were competing in the VEX/IQ Mississippi Robotics Championship at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Payne Center.
More than competing, the twins of Dr. Everett and Kineshia Roark were the only double winners in the event. They took home the first-place trophies in Teamwork and Skills, qualifying them for the World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky.
Winning state awards is nothing new for the Roarks, having won seven awards in their third straight state championship. Because of their skills with their robot, they are the top-ranked team in Mississippi, second in the nation and eighth in the world.
So, yeah, they’re pretty good.
Kineshia Roark said Jacob and Katie have been on the robotics team since the activity was introduced at Oak Grove Lower Elementary School.
“In the second grade, they came and showed them about robotics,” she said. “The children got excited about it and the parents got involved. If it hadn’t been for (EXCEL teacher) Mrs. (Nadine) Amaya, they wouldn’t have known about it. They were in the first class in the school.”
The winning started early for the two robotics masterminds.
“In the second grade, they won the top STEM project in the state,” Kineshia Roark said. “Last year, they were able to go to the national competition, and I think that lit a fire under them to continue going. There are so many different areas in robotics, so they enjoy it.”
Jacob and Katie learn to work together, their mother said, and they also learn life lessons together.
“Ten percent of life is what happens and 90 percent is how you handle it,” she said. “They understand that things aren’t always going to go their way, but they are learning to accept it and move on.”
Everett Roark has become more involved with the robotics team this year as the twins have changed schools.
“I personally was shocked and honored to learn that I had been selected as the Volunteer of the Year after the State Tournament,” he said.
Everett Roark keeps an eye on the Oak Grove teams during the competitions and said they were able to win most of this weekend’s awards.
“It was an outstanding tournament for the Oak Grove teams,” he said. “They won seven of the 11 awards, including six of the eight awards that qualify teams for the World Championships.”
Students that took home trophies were Design Award winners, the BEARbots – third-graders Anna Boudreaux, Jaeli Harris, Ruthie Hutchinson and Rachel Woods; Teamwork Champions, the Scholar Bots – third-graders John Flock, Devin Madden and Kane McCormick; Teamwork second place, the Astro Bots – third-graders Kaden Blair and Griffin Beason; Skills second place, Team 121 B – James and Jacob Riles, and Excellence Award winners, the AquaBots – Madelyn Courtney, Mica Shemper and Elliot Walsh. Also qualifying for the World Championship were the Chili Bots - August Shivers, Parker Creel, William Johnson, Madeline Seal and Faith Guy.
The remaining season plans include competing in the 2018 CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship - VEX IQ - Elementary School Division and 2018 VEX Robotics World Championship - VEX IQ Challenge Elementary School Division.