A Brief History of VEX Robotics at BHE

Bryant Hornet Engineering (BHE) presently operates on 5 campuses (high, middle, and elementary schools) in the Bryant School District, located in Bryant, AR. While it has become one of the state's premier programs, this program was near death less than three years ago. The VEX Robotics Competition has played a major role in our program's resurrection story. The story that follows explains how.

2013 Season

While engineering classes (using a PLTW curriculum) have been offered at Bryant High School since 2001, Bryant Hornet Engineering as it exists today was founded in the fall of 2012. As fate would have it, Arkansas hosted its very first VEX Robotics State Championship the following spring. A small group of engineering students banded together and assembled BHE's first VRC robots from freshly opened PLTW POE kits. (Watch the first ever Arkansas VEX match HERE.)

Romulus was constructed first. Remus, the clone, was constructed a couple days before its first competition. (See more about these robots HERE.)

The new robots were unlike anything else at the competition and the pilots performed admirably, given their total lack of experience piloting the robots in a real VEX field with more than a few sacks. While Bryant Hornet Engineering Blue (5691B) finished first in qualification rounds, they and team 5691W lost out in the semi-finals of elimination rounds. While the loss was taken hard, spirits were lifted when the team was awarded the Excellence Award, making the team eligible to be the first to ever represent Arkansas at the VEX Robotics World Championship. This win was a huge break for the new program and we've only pushed harder since.

BHE's first World Championship team

The rookie team performed valiantly finishing in the top quarter of their division at the 2013 VRC World Championship. (See videos from this season HERE.)

2014 Season

The impact of international competition on Bryant Hornet Engineering was not hard to spot. The program exploded. A world-class robotics team nested here, and constructed a world-class engineering program around it. Participation in the program as a whole more than doubled in the year that followed. Naturally, the robotics team saw serious growth as well, both in participants and sponsors. In the fall of 2013, the program expanded to Bryant Middle School who also fielded a VRC team in the 2014 season. VEX had served as a geniune foothold for STEM at the Bryant School District.

a quick look at a big year (lots of robots)

The fall of 2013 also saw the founding of our engineering student organization, H.E.A.T..

The 2014 VEX season was, in two words, snowed out. While five competitions were scheduled to take place in Arkansas (one on BHE's home-turf), all but the State Championship were snowed out; seriously, all of them. The State Championship saw three BHE teams from Bryant High School as well as two teams from Bryant Middle School compete. One of the teams was BHE's new top-secret Skunkworks Division, team 5691X.

2014 State Championship

While all of the high school robots were faster and smarter than Romulus and Remus, the Skunkworks flagship, X-1, was the most advanced robot to come out of the Bryant Hornet Engineering Center; sporting pneumatics, integrated encoder modules, accelerometers, and programming to match. Going into the tournament untested in competition, X-1 experienced glitches early on, but recovered in the afternoon to become an overwhelming force and win the day. It's worth mentioning that the other Bryant teams were only beaten in qualification rounds by their flagship, X-1.

Bryant's second visit to the VEX World Championship (See more videos from this season HERE.)

5691X again qualified for the VRC World Championship, this time accompanied by two other Arkansas schools, Woodland Jr. High and Southwest Jr. High. Arkansas had a presence at the 2014 World Championship with Woodland and Bryant running robots into the division quarter finals. BHE had proven that 2013 wasn't a fluke and had a determination to remain a world-class program with a world-class team. This repeat visit to Anaheim served still more momentum to the growing program.

2015 Season

Again, BHE saw tremendous growth at the high school level and beyond. Another Bryant School District middle school was added to the family of Bryant Hornet Engineering, as well as two new elementary schools! BHE had made trips to visit these elementary schools in the spring, but now had even more access to these students; giving a great opportunity for students to show students just how amazing STEM can be.

Paron Elementary joins the BHE family of campuses

BHE hopes to field a VEX IQ team for the first time this season. At the high school level, the robotics team is having a good season so far, with an Excellence Award at an early in state competition and a Create Award against killer competition in Texas. Outside of the VEX field, VEX components are being utilized to fire a massive t-shirt cannon from a wireless VEX controller, and soon, over the internet from a cell phone... yeah. (See more of that HERE.)

a quick review of fall 2014

Ultimately, VEX truly has become a HUGE part of Bryant Hornet Engineering and is totally entangled in virtually all classes and activities we offer and pursue. Mr. Williams, our H.E.A.T. mentor, keeps BHE's first Excellence Award on a special shelf, not just because it was a win, but because it marked a significant turning point for the program as a whole. It was shortly after that first win that the department's motto was adopted - "Make it happen." We look forward to the remainder of this year's season and those that follow. Hope to see you all in Louisville!

Additional Info

You'll always be able to keep up with us on our department page - http://engineering.bryantschools.org
For information on joining H.E.A.T. and our robotics team, click HERE.
You can find more of our videos in our video library, HERE.
Follow us on twitter @BHSEngineering
Our mentor, John Williams, can be contacted at jdwilliams@bryantschools.org

Thank you, and MAKE IT HAPPEN!