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This release prepared by the Office of Public Relations and Marketing.
Rebecca Eidson, Director, 646-1507,
Lisa Garrett, Public Relations Associate, 646-1506,

FIRST VEX Challenge League Tournament Set For This Saturday at Tri-County Technical College


(By Lisa Garrett)

PENDLETON ---  Students in Mandy Orzechowski’s Digital Electronics and Computer Integrated Manufacturing class ask the same question every day --  can we work on the VEX project all day?

For the past few months, these students from the Career and Technology Center in Williamston have been crafting and perfecting their game strategy for a robotics project in preparation for the FIRST VEX Challenge (FVC) League Tournament at Tri-County Technical College January 20 and for the state competition at South Carolina State University next month.

The FVC practice tournament is set for Saturday, January 20, from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. in the College’s Cafe.

Five high school teams -- two from the Anderson Career and Technology Center and one from Walhalla High School, Hanna Westside Extension Campus and Pendleton High School  -- have spent countless hours designing, building and programming robots for the FIRST Vex Challenge, a mid-level robotics competition for high school students that offers the traditional challenge of a FIRST competition but with a more accessible and affordable robotics kit.  FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a way to create a world where science and technology are celebrated similar to a sports environment.  Students build a robot to play a certain game to compete with other high school teams.  The intent is to get students excited about science and technology and to increase their desire to become engineers. 

The Tri-County event will be scored and judged, but awards will not be given.  Teams have the option to go on to the state championship event at S.C. State University February 2.

The Robert Bosch Corporation donated $10,000 to Tri-County Technical College to sponsor high school teams and the competition for the VEX league tournament.  Schools were given $500 per team to purchase the robot kit and to register with the U.S. FIRST.  Students built the kits and put them together at their high schools or career centers.  They were instructed to build a basic robot but will modify, customize and program the robot to compete in the Hangin-A-Round challenge, said Stephanie Evans, academic advisor for the Industrial and Engineering Technology Division at Tri-County.

“It’s a complicated challenge based on strategy,” explained Evans. “They are learning about science and technology and how to apply those concepts in a real-world example.  It’s a test of problem solving, and a lesson in robotics, gears and sensors,” she added.

“It’s a way to scrimmage for the state tournament or to participate in a fun event -- either way students gain experience.   There are no fees, it’s local and gives the teams a chance to test their robots and make changes before the state tournament,” she said.  The Anderson Career and Technology Center teams, who also built the playing field for the competition, are planning to go to the state competition.

“The project applies the skills they are learning in class,” said Orzechowski, of her Career and Technology Center students who are the first members of Project Lead the Way, a pilot program at Wren High School.  “It’s interesting because the game has different objectives.  Each team decides how to attack a problem, and each has a different strategy.  Some teams will choose to focus on several tasks or to excel in just one area,” she said.  She said she serves as a mentor, and the students are responsible for the budget and serve as project managers.  “I have a very hands-off role.  They have their own ideas, and frankly, they are far more creative than I am.”

Evans says the event, which is open to the public, is a way for Tri-County to support the community, to collaborate with the high schools and to encourage students to pursue their interests in the field of engineering-related fields.

“Students will be on campus and will be able to see what engineering careers they can pursue by enrolling in programs at Tri-County,” said Evans.

          For more information, contact Stephanie Evans at 646-1517 or


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