Plenty of baskets were scored Saturday afternoon inside Evans High School’s gymnasium, but they weren’t made in the basketball net.
Instead, robots took to the court, scoring balls and square “barrels” into black baskets – or trying to keep their opponents from doing so.
For the first time in school history, Evans hosted a Vex robotic tournament that brought in more than 30 teams from schools across Georgia and South Carolina.
Evans formed a robotics team last year, competing in their first national competition.
“I just thought it would be cool to bring it to our area,” said Evans Engineering and Technology teacher Cliff Kicklighter, who heads the school’s team. “In the state of Georgia, they’re mostly in either Atlanta or the Savannah area.”
On Saturday, the only other local school to compete was Lakeside High School. The majority of teams at the tournament were from the Atlanta area.
Pairs of students surrounded two fields set up in the middle of the Evans gym. While one person operated the robot with a remote control, the other served as a coach and gave strategic help.
Whichever team scored the most baskets won each two-minute match. The top eight groups then went on to compete in a bracket-style tournament.
By the end of the day, two teams from North Forsyth High School and one from Woodland High School finished in the top three spots. Another North Forsyth High team won an excellence award.
Those four teams will advance to the Vex World Competition in March in Anaheim, Calif.
Each school that competed was represented by at least one team, which spent months building their robot.
A group of four juniors from North Forsyth started working on their robot, Vanessa, in August.
“It takes a lot of dedication and teamwork,” said Ellis Treece, part of the foursome.
Though they’ve competed in several matches, Treece said Saturday’s competition was stiff.
The Evans team suffered a setback when the motors on their robot’s arm broke the morning of the tournament.
Evans senior Matt Canipe said their group had to switch to a more defensive game plan, since scoring would be more difficult without a moveable arm.
The robotics program gives students a chance to compete in something nontraditional but that still requires a competitive will.
“They want to get these robots and compete and beat teams in other schools,” said Kicklighter, who heads the school’s robotics team. “If you give them just regular worksheets and busy class work, they might not excel.”