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Students design and innovate at the second annual WVU Mountaineer VEX Robotics Competition

WVU team setting up the robots to compete.

The WVU team strategically places their robot to compete in the Tournament round at the 2024 WVU Mountaineer VEX Robotics Competition (WVU Photo/J. Paige Nesbit).

Over 65 teams from around the country gathered this weekend for the second annual West Virginia University Mountaineer VEX Robotics Competition, hosted by the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering at the WVU Rec Center. 

Story by Kaley LaQuea, Communications Specialist
Photos by Paige Nesbit, Director of Marketing & Communications


The competition has grown exponentially since its inception in 2011, with more than 500 teams competing across the state in a variety of robotics disciplines.

“Our engagement across the state is unparalleled,” said Todd Ensign, head judge and program manager for NASA’s Education Resource Center. “What’s happening now is our teams are starting early, they’re more entrenched, they have a more established program. What’s really cool is our teams are competing at a higher and higher level. We’re not just competing in our state, we’re going to signature events and world tournaments. Our teams are actually taking away trophies from these very high-caliber programs and events. The evolution of what’s happening in our state from both a growth standpoint and a quality standpoint is really neat.”

During this year’s event, each team competed in eight matches, going head-to-head to achieve the highest ranking before a final elimination-style tournament to determine the champions. Teams competed for several awards across all levels. 

The Judges Award was earned by teams that overcame an obstacle in achieving a goal or special accomplishment. Teams were required to submit an engineering notebook with their designs and detailed information about their process. The Design Award went to the teams that demonstrated clear and organized records of their iterative design process, while the Excellence Award was given to teams that ranked in the top third for qualification rankings, the Robot Skills Challenge matches and the Autonomous Coding Challenges.

Fourteen university teams competed on Friday, Feb. 16. The RIT Tigers from the Rochester Institute of Technology were crowned tournament champions and also took home both the Skills and Excellence Awards. Team AYO from Woodbridge, VA earned the Judges Award, while the Design Award went to team HSKY from Northeastern Robotics Club in Boston, MA.

On Saturday, 32 high school teams from West Virginia vied for victory. Iron Patriots 2 and Iron Patriots 3 from Wheeling Park High School in Wheeling were named tournament champions, and Iron Patriots 2 also earned both the Skills and Excellence Awards. The Judges Award went to team RipBotz from Ripley High School in Ripley, and team Project Valley from Spring Valley High School in Huntington earned the Design Award.

Students like Adah Aubrey competed for the first time this year after dedicating hundreds of hours to learning, building and preparing for the big event.

“I’ve gained knowledge. Before I really liked coding, but I didn’t know how I could fit into it, where I could start learning, then I found this and it just blew me away,” participant Adah Aubrey said. “I loved it so much and now it’s one of my favorite things to do.”

Aubrey and her teammates, Allison Twigg and Leah Skidgel from Sherrard Middle School in Wheeling, earned the Design Award on Sunday. Their team, the Lucky Charms, was one of 32 teams competing. Lil’ Squirtz from Sherrard Middle School and RoboRaiders from Triadelphia Middle School in Wheeling were named tournament champions. The Judges and Skills Awards went to team Buckets! from Bridge Street Middle in Wheeling. Team George Drinks Water from Sherrard Middle earned the Excellence Award.

Jojo Shay, innovation coordinator for Ohio County Schools, says that introducing students to opportunities like this early on is an important step to honing their STEM skills for the future. Ohio County Schools’ robotics program is in its third year. 

“Our job in education is to prepare students for their future,” Shay said. “Robotics and STEM in general allow them to practice all those skills that people tell us all the time they need: collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving. When you come to something like this, it’s eight hours of doing that. I think that’s what the STEM fields offer.”

Tournament champions and teams that earned the Excellence Award at the middle school level qualified for scholarships to the Statler College Engineering Challenge Camps held in the summer. Winners of the high school tournament and excellence awards will receive scholarships to attend WVU Statler College if they choose to attend WVU.

West Virginia currently boasts the second-highest number of robotics teams per capita in the country, and programs like these continue to grow every year. With K-12 students' increasing interest in the robotics field, a new four-year degree robotics engineering program is now offered by the College. 



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