Report from St. Cloud Times: Clarissa Baker

In the decade since it began, the VEX Robotics program in Minnesota has grown from 22 teams to around 432 teams.

Being involved in robotics provides opportunities for students to learn about STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and teaches them skills they need to succeed in any job, according to supporters. 

It’s more than just robotics,” said Aaron Barker, VEX Minnesota state coordinator. “It has to do with problem solving, critical thinking (and) working together.” 

VEX Robotics is one of the “largest and fastest-growing elementary, middle and high school robotics program globally,” according to the St. Cloud Technical and Community College website. 

The soft skills students learn working on a team is the biggest part of the program, according to Barker. Students receive a game challenge in April and design a robot to complete the task. 

Teams will improve their robot as they attend competitions throughout the year. The state tournament was held in St. Cloud Thursday and Friday at River’s Edge Convention Center. 

Qualifying teams from state will move on to the world competition. 

Students can get involved in robotics through a variety of angles, such as taking pictures, designing websites or journal writing. 

X-Bots A team from Albany accepts the Create Award at the Minnesota State VEX Robotics Championship Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, at the River’s Edge Convention Center.

It’s probably one of the most diverse sporting events I’ve ever seen,” according to Barker.

Greg Flint, president of Coldspring — a natural stone manufacturer — became involved in the robotics program through his son. The company began sponsoring the program at the high school level and then added on the state level.

Flint said he views participation in robotics teams as a way to “solve the STEM needs of the area.” 

“We have an awareness shortage,” Flint said of STEM fields. Part of why Coldspring supports VEX Minnesota is because it creates that awareness. 

Students can learn about electrical and mechanical engineering, as well as see the different roles available when working with technology. 

“Those are the same sort of needs,” Flint said of companies such as Coldspring.

Betaversion 4.0, a team from Mankato East High School, competes at the Minnesota State VEX Robotics Championship Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, at the River’s Edge Convention Center

The world is changing quickly, Flint said, and companies need employees who can work together and problem solve. 

“There’s a fit for everyone in robotics,” Barker said