Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, February 7, 2023

“Robot Rumble,” Brings More Than 20 Area High School Teams to Battle it Out at South Dakota Mines

Members of the 2023 South Dakota Mines VexU robotics team are preparing to host the “Robot Rumble” high school competition while practicing for their own university level competitions in hopes of capturing a world title.

South Dakota Mines VexU Robotics team will host a regional VEX robotic competition, called the Robot Rumble, for more than 20 high school teams from across South Dakota, Colorado and surrounding states. The match will take place in the Goodell Gym on the South Dakota Mines campus in the King Center starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11. Members of the Mines VexU team will be on hand to speak with interested media outlets during the competition. The final round of the competition is expected to take place after 3 p.m. with awards presentation in the late afternoon.

VEX robotic competitions are organized around the world each year and are open to students of all ages. VEX tournaments involve student teams who build and program robots to compete against each other in pre-set challenges.

VexU 2023 awards Mines own VexU team has a strong track record, including placing among the top teams world in past international competitions. Deon Estebo is a mechanical engineering major at South Dakota Mines and VexU team captain. He is proud to play a role in inspiring the next generation of students who will lead the way in building the high-tech infrastructure of tomorrow. “Honestly, I think our team outreach is the most important thing we do,” says Estebo. “I really enjoy hosting these high school competitions. I agree that STEM fields can improve the world, and this is a great recruitment tool to get young people interested in these important careers.” 

The basic premise of this year’s 6-12th grade Vex challenge tasks students to design and build robots that can pick up a set of disks on a 12x12 foot court and shoot the disks into goals. The game, called “Spin Up,” includes two robots on the court competing against each other to gather a limited set of disks and score the most goals. “The game is different each year, so you are always trying to do a new competition and that keeps it fresh,” says Estebo.

Mines students will also volunteer to help at the statewide high school level Vex competition set to take place at Douglas Highschool in March. The university team has a mentorship program set up with Douglas High School. Last year the team completed more than 500 hours of combined community volunteerism in outreach events with various schools.

Mines VexU team members are returning some impressive results at their own university level competitions. The team placed 5th in the world in a recent virtual event. They also won top honors at the Arizona State Polytechnic University VEXU Competition in early February. The team went undefeated with an 8-0 record throughout the day and took home the championship award along with the robot skills award and the overall excellence award. Estebo says Mines VexU is gearing up for the world championship coming up later this spring. “We take university students of all levels to our competitions. First year freshmen travel alongside the seniors. This way we build team experience and depth,” says Estebo.

As he speaks, his teammates in the nearby practice area are running two robots that are gobbling up soft yellow foam disks at breakneck speeds and accurately shooting them into goals. Building and programming robots from the ground up to efficiently complete complex tasks is no easy chore. The Mines team begin working on design ideas for their own collegiate level robots last May. The team then completed a flurry of robot building activity over the holiday break. “We were in the lab every day for nine hours a day during the last few weeks of winter break to get these finished,” says Estebo.Vex practice 2023

Estebo recently completed a summer internship with the company Whirlpool, and he brought that real-world experience back to help this team. “The R&D we did at Whirlpool, testing and retesting over and over again, was really valuable and applicable here in our effort to build robots that have a chance at competing on the world stage,” he says.

The Mines VexU team advisor, Aaron Lalley, Ph.D., who teaches in the university’s mechanical engineering department, says he’s very proud of the team for representing the university at the collegiate level and for all the volunteer work they do to outreach to the next generation. “They are a great team in every way,” says Lalley. “This team has significant representation from every department on campus and they have set the standard for team autonomy and professionalism.” 



About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu

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