OSD robotics team earn national award

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite
The Oklahoma School for the Deaf Thunderbolts robotics team last month earned the title of VEX IQ Teamwork Champions. From left to right, head coach Kym Vance, Jarven Reininger, Russel Fewell and assistant coach Kelsey Jones.

Two area middle school students brought home a national robotics award for deaf and hard of hearing teams. The Thunderbolts, a two-person robotics team from the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur, took home the Teamwork Champions award at the second annual VEX IQ Challenge last month. 

"This was a very challenging year,” said Kym Vance, OSD Robotics head coach. “Our robotics teams only had four weeks to build and program robots because of COVID-19.”   

The event was held virtually due to the pandemic but still saw 14 teams from five schools in Alabama, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Oklahoma, according to the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation which oversees VEX events. 

This year’s tournament was hosted by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf Regional STEM Center. 

Thunderbolts team members Russell Fewel, of Sulphur, and Jarven Reininger, of Midwest City, had two weeks to develop and build two robots to complete a 60-second teamwork challenge on a 6-feet by 8-feet rectangular field.  

The Thunderbolts were joined by two other OSD robotics teams, the Warriors and DPXC, during the VEX IQ Challenge last month. IQ is the VEX division for middle school robotics teams while other divisions are available for elementary, high school and college-level teams. 

Fewel and Reininger, earned the most points during tournament teamwork matches to become the Teamwork Champions for 2020-2021.  

Teams also compete in the Robot Skills Challenge where one robot takes the field to score as many points as possible, according to information from the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation. These matches consist of Driving Skills Matches, which are entirely driver controlled, and Programming Skills Matches, which are autonomous with limited human interaction. 

Unlike the competition’s inaugural event last year, the most recent VEX IQ competition was held virtually. 

“This was also our first experience with virtual competitions. I am so proud of Russell and Jarven and am excited that they are now qualified to compete in the state tournament,” Vance said.   

The team has already submitted their videos for the state competition and Vance expects to learn their results sometime next week.