Skip to content

Aspiring Kahok engineers head to state robotics competition

Team 9691C poses with Accordi Bot, from left to right: Sophie VanMiddendorp (holding Design Award), Kate Harris (holding Accordi Bot) , Gabby Barrera and Peyton Bierma, photo by Devese Ursery

By Devese “Dee” Ursery

Not knowing what the robotics team was really about, Collinsville sophomore Kate Harris said she joined on a whim through a random invite. 

Now a dedicated member, she says she enjoys seeing all the ideas that everyone comes up with to win the competition. Everyone has the same tasks to do – it’s just amazing to see the different perspectives used to get to the same common goal. 

“Our robot has the color wheels on the sides of the arena and then we can push the rubber disks,” Harris said. “Finally our latch comes up and our whole robot expands like an accordion, so our main points come from expansion at the end of the game.”

The Vex Robotics Competition is the largest and fastest growing middle and high school robotics program globally, according to their website at Each year an exciting engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students with guidance from their teachers and mentors, build innovative robots and compete all year-round.

Collinsville Community Unit School District 10 hosted its first in-person robotics competition at Collinsville Middle School on Feb. 18. The Collinsville Kahoks VRC HS/MS Spin Up Challenge is an event qualifier for the State Championship. The object of the game is to get a higher score than the opposing Alliance by scoring disks in goals, owning rollers  and covering field tiles at the end of the match.

There were seven schools and 23 teams with roughly 150 competitors from the state of Illinois, with most of them coming from the surrounding area that competed. CHS had seven teams in the tournament while Triad High School had three teams in the competition. Mt. Vernon had eight teams in the competition. SIU East St. Louis Charter had two teams compete while Aurora had two schools with one team a piece in the contest. 

Team Accordi Bot 9691C, which includes: Harris, Sophie VanMiddendorp, Gabby Barrera and Peyton Bierma won the Design Award and that automatically qualifies them for the State competition and their team. The team is one of two at CHS  who will participate in the Vex Robotics State Competition March 10 and 11, at Millikin University in Decatur.

K.I.D.D.O. or Killer Industrial Dodecahedron Designed For Oxymorons is Team 9691B’s robot and it has a rotating flywheel that allows it to launch disks into the air. Their robot has rubber band-powered string launchers that fire strings far away from the robot, which also gets them points at the end of the game. 

Robotics Team 2: Team 9691B pose with their robot K.I.D.D.O. from left to right: Jack O’Hara, Tristan Shubert and Peyton Beeles while holding awards in show, photo by Devese Ursery

“Our robot’s main feature is the rotating flywheel, which shoots rubber disks from the front, essentially making it Frisbee golf,” Peyton Beeles, a Kahok senior from Team 9691B said. “We also have a rubber color roller that turns color cylinders on the side of the walls of the arena and that gives us points.”

Beeles said it’s the designing and building that has him hooked – watching how far it comes from just being an idea in your head to being a big physical robot that actually performs well. He said it is amazing being able to compete on the same level and hold your own against people you thought were better than you or who would outperform you. 

Tristan Shubert, a 9691B team member says that he likes designing and overcoming challenges that come up during the process of building a machine from nothing. 

“It’s really interesting to have to think outside of the box, all the time,” he said. “It has helped me grow my problem solving skills.”

Jack O’Hara, the final member of 9691B joined the team because he became intrigued after hearing friends talk so enthusiastically about the things they were doing. He loves how creative you can get when designing your own robot. He also expressed that he likes playing the matches. 

“I think of all the clubs I’m in, this one represents what I want to do when I grow up,” O’Hara said. It’s almost like sports for kids who are not athletic. I love working with a team and seeing this creation built over the course of months and months flourish in the arena.” 

Beeles, Shubert and O’Hara all are going into the engineering field and say it’s solely because of this program. 

Cindy Bednara, CHS engineering teacher and Robotics Team advisor since 2011 says that the robotics team is growing and expanding. Bednara hopes to have additional spots for the seventh and eighth grade levels, as well as grades nine through 12.

Robotics Team advisor and Engineer teacher, Cindy Bednara looking over some regulations from past competitions, photo by Devese Ursery

“My goal in life with these kids is to provide them with as much real world experience as I can, to provide them opportunities outside of the school,” Bednara said. “That opportunity allows them to meet and grow with other like-minded people.”




Leave a Comment