Road to VEX Worlds: T-VEX, Southlake, Texas

Road to VEX Worlds is a weekly series featuring teams on their path to Louisville, Kentucky, on April 20-23, 2016, to compete with 1,000 teams from over 35 countries under one roof for one epic celebration as we crown the World Champions!

We recently spoke to the captain of Team 9090C, Tiger, a senior at Carroll High School, in Southlake, Texas. Tiger is a T-VEX robotics club founding member, and has been a VEX participant for seven seasons. His team was a part of the high school World Championship alliance at VEX Worlds 2015 and is a two-time Programming Skills World Champion.

In this interview we discuss what got him started in robotics, the challenges that he and his team have overcome, and his favorite moments as a VEX participant.

REC FOUNDATION: How did you get involved in robotics?

TIGER: When I was in sixth grade a friend from the Chinese writing and reading class I was taking on Sundays wanted to start a team. I always liked playing with remote control toys and thought it’d be quite similar. I got distracted easily when I first started, but we actually managed to win our first tournament less than three months later, and that really caught my attention.

REC FOUNDATION: What is your role on the team?

TIGER: I’m team captain on 9090C, and since this is my last year we actually decided to put most of the rookies on my team so I could teach them what I’ve learned over 7 seasons of VEX. Before that I typically stuck to hardware and strategy, determining a strategy and then designing a robot around it. Last year I helped start a new robotics team at my high school (Southlake Carroll), starting with two teams with 15 people. I introduced them to different types of robots and mechanisms as well as the VEX system, acting as a sort of student mentor.

REC FOUNDATION: What were some of your biggest challenges this year?

TIGER: After six seasons in the V5RC, it is finally my senior year and my last. I’ve had quite a successful couple of years, especially the last two, where our club twice became the Programming Skills World Champion and also the high school World Champion. Since this is my last season, I feel driven to make the most of this last chance and advance even further on the world stage. At the same time, team members I’ve had around me for years have all graduated, leaving only rookies and a few experienced people on the other team. The Carroll team has expanded to 6 teams and 45 people this year. My greatest challenge is to balance my desire to end on the highest note possible with the need to pass on as much of my experiences and ensure that both programs remain strong after my departure.

REC FOUNDATION: What qualities make your team special?

TIGER: The best part about T-VEX has always been the diversity of ages throughout the club. I started out as a sixth grader, with team members ranging from one year to three years older than I was. I believe this helps the club grow faster since the older members can teach the younger ones and there is more continuity as members get the opportunity to compete.

REC FOUNDATION: What is an important lesson you’ve learned from being part of a robotics team?

TIGER: I’ve learned that teaching and explaining yourself to others really helps you improve. Several times new people have asked questions that helped show me a new perspective on an idea. VEX has also taught me how important it is that you are fully capable in explaining yourself and your ideas to other people. You could have the best design in the world or the best robot in the world, but if you can’t convince anyone else that this is the case, you might as well have nothing.

REC FOUNDATION: What are some of your favorite moments so far in your robotics experience?

TIGER: Two moments come to mind here: One—the first time we managed to get our robot driving my very first year. Up until that point I had not really created anything, this was the first time that I had helped make something, and it now could move and score. Two—More than six years afterwards, we became the 2015 High School World Champion. It was a particularly poignant moment for me since I was there throughout the process of building the team up to that moment.

REC FOUNDATION: How has your involvement with robotics influenced your career path?

TIGER: Six years ago I would’ve answered that I’d probably be a doctor, because it seemed like it’d be a good idea. However, my involvement in robotics has shown me just how much I like designing, building, and iterating machines to solve issues. This, along with biology classes and several hospital and research internships, has made me decide to study electrical and biomedical engineering.

For more on team 9090C, visit their team website.

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