CROWN POINT — Groups of high school students put everything on the line Saturday on the floor of the Crown Point High School field house.
Months of planning, late night work sessions, frantic tweaking to get it just right went into the Vex Robotics Competition as teams vied for a spot in the March 5 state championships and a chance to go to the world competition in Louisville, Kentucky, later this spring.
"I came in here my sophomore year. I wanted to try a club that matched my interests of design and engineering," Crown Point High senior Robert Ponziano said.
He will be representing his school for the third straight year at the state competition at Warren Central High in Indianapolis.
Students involved in their respective robotics programs are given the assignment each year by Vex, the company which sponsors the competition. This year's theme was Nothing but Net. Students had to design, build and program robots that would not only toss balls into nets within a mini-boxing ring, but would also scoop up the balls, lift another robot and run autonomously for 15 seconds.
Teams were pitted against each other. Locally, besides Crown Point, Portage High was represented along with schools from Plymouth, Wawasee and Batavia, Ill.
"This is project-based learning at its finest," said John Kappes, Portage High coach and robotics teacher. "These kids work their tails off to raise funds and seek sponsors. It is unbelievable how hard they work until late in the evening."
Kappes said students involved in the robotics programs learn everything from design and engineering to construction, teamwork and communication in the process.
Crown Point is a veteran participant in local, state and world robotic competitions. This is Portage's second year.
"It is definitely a challenge and definitely a thrill to see something you built meet that challenge," Portage junior Tylor Lyons said.