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Meet the Grads, Michael Lough: a passion for robotics and inspiring future engineers

Michael Lough

Michael Lough

From a young age, Michael Lough, a native of Ripley, knew that West Virginia University was his dream school and an early interest in robotics led him to the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources to major in mechanical engineering.  

Story by Brittany Furbee, Communications Specialist


“Both of my parents went to WVU for undergrad and graduate school, so in a way I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” said Lough. “I picked mechanical engineering because of the diversity of the degree and the fact that there are many different career paths that are possible to pursue.”  

Lough became involved with robotics in the eleventh grade when he joined the Ripley High School Robotics Team. They competed against teams from around the globe in VEX Robotics Competitions, the largest and fastest growing middle school and high school robotics program globally with more than 20,000 teams from 50 countries playing in over 1,700 competitions worldwide.  

Each year, students are presented with an engineering challenge in the form of a game. With guidance from their teachers and mentors, students build innovative robots to complete the challenges and compete against other teams year-round. 

“Robotics was extremely interesting in and of itself but VEX gave us the opportunity to work as a team and create a robot with a goal of what we wanted it to achieve,” said Lough. “Having the games involved with VEX each year helped us to be creative in our creation of our robots in ways we wouldn’t have been otherwise. Competing in robotics in high school pointed me in the direction of the degree as I gained a fascination for mechanical systems.”  

When he arrived at WVU, Lough knew he wanted to stay involved in VEX Robotics Competitions at the collegiate level, called VEX U. While the Statler College was home to the notable WVU Robotics Club, it did not have a VEX competition team at the time. Lough set out to fix that. 

“I reached out to the robotics club here and they mentioned that they had the supplies to produce the robots, but they had not had enough students to compete,” said Lough. “When I arrived on campus, I joined the club and created the VEX team and have been with that team throughout college.” 

WVU VEX U at an outreach event at a high school in West Virginia.

To garner interest in the new WVU VEX U team, the organization focused on outreach and volunteered at high school robotics competitions around the state.  

Lough was instrumental in bringing the first Vex Robotics Competition to WVU in the spring of 2023. The event, which was sponsored by the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, welcomed more than 50 teams comprised of hundreds of middle and high school students to the Statler College to compete in a variety of bracket style elimination tournaments.   

Vex robotics competition at WVU.

The goal of the event was to inspire the student participants to become the next generation of engineers and computer scientists in the state.  

“My hope in bringing the event to the Statler College was to get students on campus and show them all that the college has to offer,” said Lough. “For some of the participants it was the first experience being on a college campus.” 

The event served as a qualifier for the VEX World Championships, an event that brings together the top VEX IQ Competition, VEX Robotics Competition, and VEX U teams from around the globe to celebrate their accomplishments and participate in challenges to be crowned champions. 

Like the middle and high school divisions, WVU VEX U also competes in a regional qualifier to try and advance to the VEX World Championships. In 2020, WVU VEX U successfully qualified to compete at the event for the first time, however the event was unfortunately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The team qualified to compete at the event again in the spring of 2022 and most recently in 2023.  

WVU VEX U team.

“The 2022 World Championships was the team's first time competing at the annual event,” said Lough. “The team finished 18th in a division of 50 teams.” 

The following year, WVU VEX U once again qualified for the VEX World Championships and traveled to Dallas, Texas on April 27-29 to compete. The team, comprised of 15 students, went into the competition as the 25th ranked team in the world. 

WVU VEX U team at the World event.

“The 2023 World Championships went very well for the team,” said Lough. “We finished 13th in our division of 50 teams and qualified for the elimination tournament. In total at the event there were 100 teams from around the world across two divisions that were randomly generated.” 

Lough served as WVU VEX U’s secretary during his sophomore year and has been the organizations president for the last two years. According to Lough, being involved in WVU VEX U and representing the college twice at the VEX U World Championships were his most memorable moments as a student at the Statler College. 

“Getting involved with any of the student organizations on campus will help you make lifelong friends, and it will also further help develop skills that are taught in class,” said Lough.   

After graduation, Lough will join Halliburton as a field engineer and is excited to apply the knowledge he learned at the Statler College to his new role.   

“The college helped give me the technical skills and knowledge to pursue my desired career,” said Lough. “Through the large number of hands-on projects in coursework and capstone projects in the college I have developed desirable teamwork and communication skills. The teamwork and communication skills that I have gained with robotics will help me throughout my entire career.”   



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135