Brother duo wins big at state robotics contest

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By Kaitlin Hoskins, News Editor

Charlie and Rex Craft are more than meets the eye. The two brothers in Duck Springs have a total of 13 state awards between them. Eight of those awards belong to 15- year old Charlie, a student at Etowah High School and the mastermind behind building the team’s robots.

According to Charlie, Rex, who is 10 years old and a student at Duck Springs Elementary School, is the better robot driver between the two of them.

The pair was able to compete together at the State VEX Robotics Championship in February, and with their combined skills the brother-duo team named “The Moderately Sized Wave” secured the most coveted award at the competition – the Alabama State VEX IQ Excellence Award. Charlie and Rex also brought home the Alabama State VEX IQ Robot Skills Champion award and the Alabama State VEX IQ Teamwork Challenge Third Place award.

This successful performance at the state competition secured a trip to the World VEX IQ Competition in Dallas, Texas in May.

Before competing at the state competition, Charlie and Rex had already brought home 10 awards from tournaments in northeast Alabama and Georgia.

Charlie explained the unique challenges presented by the VEX IQ competitions. Every year, the challenge changes, and so every year, they must design a new robot that can handle that year’s challenge.

This year, the boys’ robot must be able to pick up large plastic cubes and deliver them to goals located in the corners of the game field. There are three colors of cubes and each color denotes certain point amounts. The competition only lasts for 60 seconds and both members on a team challenge must drive the bot. A buzzer will sound to tell the teams to switch their drivers.

According to Rex, there is a lot of strategy that goes into a successful run. There are certain point combinations that yield the best point outcome with the shortest amount of time.

This was the one year that everything came together for the duo to compete as a team, as they had both been in different age brackets until now. Next year, they will not be able to compete at the VEX IQ competitions together because Charlie will have aged out of the program. Rex will still be able to compete and looks forward to it.

“Charlie can probably still coach me,” Rex said. “I can have two coaches then.”

Their grandmother, Genia Craft, a retired teacher in the Etowah County Schools system is their robotics coach. She also still coaches the Duck Springs robotics team.

The family effort does not stop with Genia and the boys. Rex and Charlie’s mom Tina is the official chauffeur for the boys. She drives them to robotics competitions all over the United States.

“The boys are busy,” she laughed. “So that means I’m busy too. Between baseball or other sports and robotics, there is always something going on.”

The brothers are not limiting themselves to just robotics as their extracurricular activity. Both brothers are involved in school athletics. Charlie is involved in baseball and Rex is involved in baseball and occasionally football. The busy boys still find time in all of their after-school activities to maintain good grades, according to Tina.

The brothers work well together at their home in Duck Springs.

“I think working together like this has brought them closer,” Tina said. “It’s great to see them work out problems together. And it is easier having them on the same team. There are no other schedules to work around, other than all their other commitments.”

Even though Charlie will not be able to compete at the VEX IQ competitions, he still hopes to find some robotics-loving peers and find a way to continue competing or learning about robotics. As just a freshman in high school, he is not quite sure what he wants to do with this future career, but he thinks robotics or other technology will play a role in it. In what little spare time he has, the teen has created a YouTube channel that showcases his robotics work and some competition clips. The channel, called The Moderately Sized Wave, has over 700 subscribers.

“He really likes making the YouTube videos,” Tina said. “He’s so funny with it and the music is always so good. I’m impressed.”

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