Event Horizon, one of the Owensboro Innovation Academy robotics teams, has been invited to the VEX Robotics World Championship that will be held virtually this year on May 20-22.

The team also qualified for the competition last year but was unable to attend due to the pandemic. This year, however, organizers of the event have developed a way for all teams to take part virtually.

The team, comprised of members Luke Austin and Ben Austin, who are brothers, and Michael Gray is among 45 others across the state who were invited to participate.

Typically there are about 4,000 teams that participate in the VEX Robotics competitions around the world. This year, there are about 2,400 total, said OIA Engineering Facilitator Stephanie Gray, who also is team sponsor.

Those competitions and tournaments take place throughout the school year and summer. Only about a quarter of those teams qualify for the national championship, she said.

There are about 600 teams competing in the championship. This number is down from previous years, Gray said.

VEX Robotics is a provider in educational and competitive robotics products for educational institutions, according to robotics education.org, spanning from elementary school through college.

“This is definitely an honor for students,” she said. “A lot of things have been canceled for them. I think this kind of shows their hard work, and shows that hard work pays off.”

She said students were disheartened last year to have worked so hard, and to qualify for the world competition, only for it to be canceled.

The VEX Robotics World Championship “will go down in history as the first of its kind,” according to roboticseducation.org.

It’s the world’s largest robotics competition that is hosted by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation. Typically the annual competition attracts more than 30,000 attendees from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.

Dan Mantz, CEO of the REC Foundation, said in an online release that foundation members have been inspired by the robotics community that continually innovated and problem-solved throughout this challenging season.

“We are excited to host the first-ever remote robotics championship to recognize their resilience,” Mantz said, adding that while the event can’t go on as it traditionally would due to the pandemic, “teams will be able to safely compete remotely with other competitors from all over the world. Through the creative process of designing, building and programming robots, students gain a wealth of technical knowledge and communication skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.”

Event Horizon is one of five teams at the OIA.

Gray said the school could not participate in VEX Robotics without the help of community sponsors such as Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, which not only provides funds for the program but also provides mentorship for students.

“Each robot costs about $1,500, so it’s expensive,” Gray said, adding that the advice from Southern Star employees, and their help in putting on local tournaments, “is invaluable.”

“The community support is very vital to the program,” she said.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@ messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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