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The Maryville R-II robotics team is set to compete in the Vex Robotics World Championship in Dallas May 4. The team is led by science teacher Phil Stone, and it has been competing in VEX Robotics for six years. This year marks the first time Maryville R-II has qualified to compete in the world championship.

VEX Robotics World Championship is made up of 820 teams from across the world.

 “In the past, I was always under the understanding that you had to be one of the final two in your state meet to qualify for worlds,” Stone said. “And so, at the end of this state meet, we finished, we didn't finish top two, so we figured it was over. But we got an email a few days later saying that we qualified.”

VEX Robotics holds state competitions among the top 24 qualifying teams in the state. The top two advance to the world championship or advance by receiving the VEX Robotics Excellence Award. 

The VEX Robotics Missouri State Competition was held in February at State Technical College of Missouri in Linn, Missouri, just east of Jefferson City. Student-built robots are placed in a 12-by-12-foot arena and earn points based on their ability to perform various tasks that differ every year, such as moving and stacking large blocks.

Prior to state competitions, the robotics team attended three competitions in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Stone said it’s better in Council Bluffs because there’s more competition there compared to Kansas City, Missouri.

At the beginning of qualifying competitions, each team is matched with a randomly-selected team and put up against two other teams, while the top eight teams in the bracket get to select their partner team.

The Maryville robotics team is made up of two groups of five students, an A team and a B team, with the A team qualifying for the world championship. Teams qualify by meeting a certain score on their robots’ abilities. They meet three nights a week, with some meetings lasting a few hours, building, testing, and coding their robots.

“It's an enormous event,” Stone said. “I don't know what to expect quite yet. I mean, 820 teams from around the world, they put on a huge show. I'm just excited for the kids next week. It's a long trip. I think they're going to be just as overwhelmed as I am.

“I've never been to this event before, but you can look online and look up VEX worlds, and it's impressive,” Stone said. “They just do a really cool job and make it really exciting for them. So it should be pretty neat.”

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