The Apollo Middle School Robotics Team won the Excellence Award in a VEX robotics competition on Jan. 20.   The team was among the top four teams in the competition and earned a position in a state competition in Tampa in February.


“We are very excited. We had zero expectation coming into the tournament,” said Diana Dworzan, a science teacher at Apollo who runs the robotics team. “This is so new for us. We came to the tournament because we wanted to observe and built a better robot and a better program.”

The teams had to design, build and program a robot.

The robots competed by moving cones into a goal area.  A student had to drive the robot during the competition.  Joseph Paez was a driver for the Apollo team. “I enjoyed being a part of the competition,” he said.

Students from the Hollywood Hills High School robotics program also participated and entered two teams.   Deb Houts, a teacher at Hollywood Hills High, said she was very proud of the performance of her girls’ team. “You need a creative mind to do well in robotics,” she said.

Kelsey Haynes, a member of the Hollywood Hills girls team said, “I like coding and I like working with robots,” she said.

Wenjing Feng who is also a member of the girls’ team, said, “I enjoyed the competition and I like robots.”

Matthew Tindell, a member of the other Hollywood Hills team, said “This is fun and exciting.” His teammate Adrian Soriano said he enjoyed the competition and likes to work with robotic technology.

A growing number of schools in Hollywood are developing robotics programs. The students enjoy the opportunity to work on hands-on projects and to develop their technical skills.  The competition is part a program made possible by a $227,000 grant awarded to the Broward County Public Schools by the REC Foundation and NASA. The grant provides a robot, team registration funding and teacher professional development to participating schools.  During the VEX Robotics Qualifying Tournaments, students participate in action-packed challenges where they compete with their VEX robots. The team field challenges allow them to show their skills operating and programming their robots.