The future is indeed in the hands of the Filipino youth.
Filipino team, Arrowhead Robotics, just ended the 2020-2021 Vex Robotics IQ Challenge season as the number 1 team in the World Skills Standings. The team from Muntinlupa also represented the country in the recently concluded VEX Robotics Live Remote World Championship 2021—dubbed by the Guinness World Records as the largest online robot championship. The global tilt was participated in by more than 1,600 VEX teams from over 30 countries.
Arrowhead Robotics’ VEX IQ Challenge Elementary School (ES) team, composed of Enrique Alonso Pioquinto, 12, and Gian Nicolas Casimiro, 11, retains the top spot for two years in a row in the World Skills Standings. Their Middle School (MS) counterpart, composed of Bianca Nicole Casimiro, 15, and Jose Antonio Hernandez, 13, moved up from sixth place last season to third place this season in the same category. Arrowhead Robotics team also won the Sportsmanship award in the World Championship.
In the VEX IQ Challenge, students, with guidance from their mentors, build a robot using simple, snap-together VEX IQ parts to solve an engineering challenge that is presented in the form of a game. Teams work together to score points in Teamwork Matches and get to show off their skills individually in driver-controlled and programming Robot Skills Challenges.
The theme for this year’s tilt was “Rise Above.” What the children needed to do was create a robot that can stack as many risers in the fastest time possible. “The challenge was to come up with the best robot, programmed and driven by the respective teams. Ang labanan basically is the scores,” explains their coach and mentor, Gerard Patrick Hernandez, who is also the father of one of the contenders. “Through the entire process, there was a lot of design, building, testing, redesign, rebuilding, paulit-ulit yun, until the kids were able to come up with a design that they were content and happy with to score the most points that they can,” adds Hernandez.
The coach explains that the challenge is highly technical in nature and allows the children to practice their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathethamics) skills. “The kids are able to learn geometry, mathematical computation, physics, through robotics. They learn about simple machines, levers, pulleys, lifts as well as yung mga motor-driven mechanisms,” Hernandez adds.
An engineering graduate and an IT professional, Hernandez says he and the other parents merely guide the children. They believe in student-centered education. “We let them build [their robot], we let them experience the problems, we let them troubleshoot it, we let them understand the program, and have them brainstorm and collaborate on the best solution.”
The kids share that joining the championship took months of preparation, which was made more challenging by the pandemic. Everyone developed their robots independently and later discussed it online. When the quarantine restrictions eased up, they all met to collaborate in building their final robot, at the same time practice operating it.
Bianca says the competition taught her and her team to persevere despite the challenges. “Whenever we felt stuck with the build or the programming, we learned that we should just keep going, that there’s always a solution for everything. We can do it if we put our minds to it and believe in ourselves.”
Alonso says it’s important to “not be complacent and to always work hard to achieve the score that we want to achieve.”
Jio echoes this. “We just have to keep trying and trying until we get the desired results,” he says.
Gian, on the other hand, stresses the importance of patience and teamwork, “because without these, it can really just slow down the team’s progress. And we just make sure no one fights against each other, so that we can achieve the goal we want.”
How does one raise such geniuses? “Mahirap,” Hernandez answers, smiling. “Support them on what they like, try to keep them focused on their goals, and encourage them to become achievers,” he says. “As they grow older, they will eventually find out what they are interested in. Try to support that and have them explore multiple things. Through experience, they will find which avenue or field they can be great at.”
Photos courtesy of Mike Casimiro