DC Gearheads win big at UALR and Russellville

On Saturday, Jan. 19, the Drew Central Gearheads competed in their first robotics tournament of the year at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The Gearheads won the Design Award, which means that the judges scored them well on their robot design and engineering notebook.
The team made several adjustments during the tournament after losing their first two matches. Drew Central rebounded and won its next four qualification matches.
In the quarterfinals of the elimination rounds, the Gearheads and their team alliance were in control of the match when the alliance robot backed into the opposition robot and pulled their chain off, to receive an automatic disqualification.
“The Gearheads showed strength and composure when the referee gave them a DQ,” coach Barbie Eubanks said. “A major part of robotics is learning how to react and overcome when things do not go your way. The Gearheads took this loss, come back to DC and made major design adjustments to make their bot even better.”
In November, the Gearheads designed and developed a v4 robot that was ready for competition when they received their new upgrade to v5. At this point, the Gearheads decided to transition from version 4 to the new v5 Vex robotics. With the transition to v5, the Gearheads basically had to redesign prototypes to work with the new motors and brain.
They had to learn new coding, motor formation, and general engineering of the robot as v5 only allows eight total motors on the bot compared to 12 with v4. Drew Central met many obstacles and brainstormed many different bot configurations before settling on their current bot, which is upgraded to perform better after each match.
On Saturday, Jan. 26, the Gearheads traveled to Russellville’s Victory in the Valley tournament and went undefeated the entire tournament. The Vex judges for the tournament were Engineers from Arkansas Nuclear One, Arkansas Tech University and Altice.
“I feel that it is important that industry and academic professionals judge notebooks and interview students as authority figures in their field of study,” tournament director Ethan Hodge said during the meet.
Within minutes of the Gearheads arriving at Russellville, the engineers were at their table and stated, “Your robot is different from the others. Tell us about it.”
Team captain Jeremy Smith discussed the different design aspects of the robot and the part that each builder played. Paden Defir, the head programmer, explained to the judges exactly what would happen during the autonomous period and then in driver control.
Anna Coleman, the engineering notebook developer, described how she recorded all of the prototypes and final design along with the code that the judges would see when they looked to notebook. The judges watched the Gearheads in many matches and came back to the pit area several times throughout the day.
At the end of the qualification matches, the Gearheads were seeded first. DC chose the team from Sheridan High School to be its alliance partner. Defir had to alter the autonomous code so that the two bots could get the most from the 15-second autonomous period in order to make a better alliance. The DC/Sheridan alliance won the Victory in the Valley Tournament.
“It is amazing when all of the Gearheads’ hard work and perseverance comes together at one time,” Eubanks praised. “These students made connections today that will serve them well in their future plans.”
The DC Gearheads not only won tournament champions but also the Excellence Award, the highest award presented in the VEX Robotics programs. The recipient of this award is a team that exemplifies overall excellence in building a high-quality robotics program. This team excels in many areas and is a shining example of dedication, devotion, hard work and teamwork.
Drew Central qualified for both the Arkansas State Vex Robotics tournament on March 9 and the CREATE U.S. Open tournament in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on April 5-7. Besides Smith, Defir and Coleman, the Gearheads’ team members are Lane Berryman, Parker Duncan, Hunter Rhodes and Jacob Hall.
Eubanks added the DC Gearheads would like to thank their sponsors—as without them and the support of the Drew Central School District, none of this would be possible. Sponsors include Ray’s, SeaArk Boats, Atwoods, Clearawater Paper, The Price Companies, Commercial Bank, Union Bank, B&B Farms, L.D. Long, Inc., Chris’ Hair Care, Drew Central Schools, Melissia Vincent, Rusty and Shelly Smith, Teresa Duckworth, Kay Grant, Kedran Handly, Karen Withers, Eddie and Leona Eubanks, and all students who purchased popcorn and funnel cakes on snack days at DC.

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