VEX Robotics: Starstruck at ASIJ

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For those of you who don’t read binary: 30 teams of robots joined us this year for ASIJ’s biggest ever VEX Competition.


Motors whirred, steel arms extended and batteries were tested as preparations began for the two-day competition on November 18-19. In addition to seven homegrown teams from ASIJ, local and international teams filled the theater and its lobby with equipment as robot inspections began on Friday morning.

Once robots passed their inspections, they took to either the Gravitational Field or Magnetic Field to begin the skills challenges. Teams had three chances to accrue points by testing their driving and programming skills. The challenges period ended with Foshang winning programming and Pearl City at the top of the scoreboard for driver skills. ASIJ’s 901B team placed sixth in programming and 901G placed seventh in the driver skills.

This year’s game was Starstruck, which is played on a 12’x12’ square field. Two alliances, composed of two teams each, competed in matches consisting of a 15-second autonomous period followed by 1 minute and 45 seconds of driver-controlled play. The game utilized 24 stars and four cube pillows; some began the match in designated locations on the field, while contestants placed others into the field during the match. In Starstruck, each robot begins the match on one of their alliance’s starting tiles and then works with their partner to score points by getting the stars and cubes over the central fence. Alliances also earn points for having one robot hanging at the end of the match from a pole in the corner of the field. Bonus points are awarded to the alliance that has the most total points at the end of the autonomous period.

Competition was fierce, especially during Saturday’s elimination rounds. Plenty of drama unfolded as robots became intertwined, fell over or simply got stuck. Attempts to push the cube pillows under the central fence were thwarted and sometimes robots overshot, sending stars hurtling out of the playing field. For those teams that found their form, the rewards paid off. The first part of the competition ended with Vesibay Robotics’ 7090A, Pearl City High School’s 4142A and Chadwick International’s CRX-Optimus 6724B teams in the top three positions. ASIJ’s 901B team was the highest placed Japanese team in sixth place with Christian Academy’s 99484B Knights close-by, in eighth place.

The alliance selection which followed saw teams line up, in order of their rankings, to choose who they wished to partner with for the final stage of the competition. Vesibay kicked things off by choosing second ranked Pearl City and the selection process got underway. ASIJ’s 901A made the decision to reject their first offer of an alliance in a tactical move that allowed them to remain eligible to choose their own alliance. Normally, a team that rejects an alliance offer can only be selected if they themselves are later in a position to pick an alliance. This move resulted in three ASIJ teams—901B, 901G and 901M—forming an alliance for the playoffs.

With alliances selected, the competition progressed to the knockout rounds. ASIJ’s 901Y team, in an alliance with Tianjin International School’s 82U and Nagoya International School’s 4204D, made it to the quarterfinals where they were knocked out. ASIJ’s three teams alliance made it through to the semifinals where they lost to the tournament winners. Full scores for the event are available on the VEX website.

ASIJ’s teams faced stiff competition from the visiting robots. The tournament champion was the three-team alliance comprised of Foshan Nanhai Yanbu Middle School (7090A, China), Pearl City High School (4142A, USA) and Chadwick International (6724, South Korea). Foshan’s 7090A team also won the Robot Skills Awards based on their consistent high scoring over the two days. Pearl City’s 4142A team won the Excellence Award and their 4142B team won the Amaze Award while ASIJ’s 901G team earned both the Create and  Sportsmanship Awards. Saint Maur International School’s (Japan) 40401B team took the Judges award and ASIJ’s 901B team received the Think Award.


The competition was streamed live on ASIJ TV’s Facebook page and on Youtube, allowing supporters overseas to follow their team’s progress. Five students provided multi-camera coverage of all the action throughout the day under the direction of Tai Dirkse. The event is also archived, so if you want to see our robots in action, head to

Thank you to all of the National Honor Society students who supported the event by resetting the fields. Thanks also to Dan Tani (science, engineering and innovation) and Kevin Randell (science) for supporting our robotics teams and organizing the event, high school teacher David Neale for emceeing and the many other faculty and staff who helped with judging, refereeing, transportation, hospitality and event production.

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