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Bradford Junior Beta robotics team wins third at nationals

The Bradford Junior Beta Club’s robotics team competed at the National Junior Beta Convention in Savannah, Ga. earlier this month and was awarded a third place plaque.

According to parent and robotics coach Michael Hickerson, Bradford’s entry was one of only four non-kit robots in the event. There were about 32 robotics teams in the competition, two of them from Tennessee.

“It is such an honor to be ranked third in the nation in Junior Beta robotics,” said Bradford club sponsor Jennifer Long.

Bradford’s robot, called Retro, won first place in the Tennessee Junior Beta competition in Nashville in November. For the state competition, Retro only moved a total of two feet. For nationals, Retro covered eight feet forward, two feet backward and did a complete circle in the final move, all while using a moving arm to knock down “enemy” Legos.

Under the guidance of Hickerson and Bradford’s computer technician and robotics coach John Rhodes, Retro the Robot was designed, built, and coded by Bradford Junior High School students using an antique erector set with additional parts, including some created to specifications on the school’s new 3D printer. Rising eighth grader Joseph Hickerson was Retro’s primary builder, while Jayden Brewer, also entering the eighth grade, did the majority of the coding. Bailey Pinkerton and Morgan Hickerson, both rising freshmen, worked out the math, participated in robot design and coding, and designed the story and poster to make sure Retro adhered to this year’s theme “Divide and Conquer.” All four students were questioned by four separate judges during the competition.

The team encountered difficulty as they prepared for the competition in Savannah. Retro won at the state convention in November running on concrete. When the team arrived at nationals, they discovered that the robot would need to run on carpet, requiring adjustments to the frame and coding just hours before the competition.

“Retro didn’t have enough torque, as it was designed, to pull on carpet,” Michael Hickerson said. “The kids did a great job adapting and overcoming.”

Rhodes, who serves as computer technician for the Bradford Special School District, is already looking forward to improving Bradford’s robotics program in the future.

“When we get the score sheet back from the Beta organization, we will have a debriefing and talk about what we did right and where we can improve,” he said

In addition to robotics, Bradford Junior High Beta Club also participated in the Recyclable Arts category and in a campaign bid for national office. Jeb Allen was elected Tennessee Junior Beta Chaplain at the state convention. While serving as state chaplain, Allen chose to campaign for national chaplain in Savannah, which included making a two-minute campaign speech and answering a question on stage, as well as campaigning to his peers throughout the convention and attending all general sessions and meetings from Tuesday through Saturday.

Although Allen’s bid was unsuccessful, his friends and family were proud of his efforts. Allen was supported by Bradford Junior Beta members Cole Cates, Carley Pruett, Jayden Brewer and Jasper Frazier, who performed in his campaign skit with help from other Tennessee Junior Beta members from the Seymour and Winchester clubs.

Rising seventh grader Jasper Frazier entered his tribute to veterans made from plastic bottle caps in the National Junior Beta Recyclable Arts contest after placing in the state competition. In addition to participating in Recyclable Arts and Allen’s campaign skit, Frazier also worked with the robotics team during the school year.

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