FoCo middle schoolers win two national robotic championship awards

Justine Lookenott

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Matthew Ferber and Arav Airi won two national championship awards at the 2022 Technology Student Association National VEX IQ Competition(Image by Natalie Ferber)

(Forsyth County, GA) While most middle schoolers spend their summers at the pool or on family vacations, North Forsyth Middle School students Matthew Ferber and Arav Airi spent two days in June controlling their homemade robot in front of a panel of judges.

From June 27 through June 28, the duo competed in the 2022 Technology Student Association National VEX IQ Competition at the Gaylord Resort in Dallas, Texas.

They returned to Forsyth County as national champions.

“It kind of took my breath away, we were all shocked,” said Natalie Ferber, Matthew’s mom. “...we talk about the ‘pinch me’ parenting moments and this is one of them. Not every kid gets this opportunity and not every parent gets this feeling and it’s pretty cool.”

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Arav Airi and Matthew Ferber compete in the 2022 Technology Student Association National VEX IQ Competition(Image by Natalie Ferber)

The 2022 TSA National VEX IQ Competition

The TSA is an organization made up of over 250,000 middle and high school students from around the country who are engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. They also compete at state, regional and national level competitions throughout the year.

Some of the middle school competitions take place in fields such as architecture and construction technology, manufacturing and transportation technology, STEM and the Arts, and communication technology.

Both Arav and Matthew are members of the robotics club at their school. They worked together throughout the year to become champions in robotics at their local and state-level competitions before finding themselves competing with dozens of other teams at the national championship.

Competitors at the TSA’s VEX IQ Challenge are required to build a robot and then take turns controlling it to complete a series of simple tasks.

“There was this challenge that you took to score the most points by launching certain balls into a bucket,” Arav said.

Participants compete for one of the three award categories: overall, teamwork and programming.

This year’s challenge reminded Matthew of air hockey.

“There are these towers, all three types of towers have different ways of getting the pucks down when you can either push up or pull down to make them fall out,” Matthew said. “And then the other you have to make the wheels spin to make them fall out and then you collect them however you want and then you have to go and find a way to either push them or shoot them under a bar.”

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Arav Airi and Matthew Ferber won the Overall and Teamwork National Championship awards, as well as a Judges' Award(Image by Natalie Ferber)

They won the overall National Championship and the National Championship for teamwork. After seeing how willing they were to help another struggling team, they were also given a Judges' Award for “being supportive and helping others.”

Overall, they are the winners of the following awards:

  • TSA State Champion for Teamwork
  • TSA Overall State Champions
  • TSA National Champions for Teamwork
  • TSA Overall National Champions
  • TSA Judge's Award for “being supportive and helping others”

Getting involved in the robotics field

Arav and Matthew credit friends and family for inspiring them to get involved with robotics.

“Before I did it I used to see my friends do it and then I got inspired by them because I thought it was a cool activity,” Arav said.

For Matthew, STEM fields run in the family. His older brother is also involved with the high school robotics club and his older sister is an aerospace engineering student at the University of Tennessee.

Robots are constantly on Matthew’s mind.

“So they're always drawing, always sketching,” Natalie said. “They're always ‘mom can I order more robot parts?' And it’s not as easy as walking down to Walmart and getting your parts, you want them all from VEX so they all come from Texas.”

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Matthew Ferber and Arav Airi are students at North Forsyth Middle School(Image by Natalie Ferber)

While robotics are big parts of their lives, the two national champions have different plans when it comes to their future in the field.

Arav wants to continue in the robotics field as a hobby but isn’t quite sure yet what he wants to pursue as a career.

For Matthew, (who can also code in C++ and is currently learning Python as well), SpaceX and Elon Musk are mentioned when discussing his future plans.

“I saw this dog-like robot where they give it to schools and they can learn how to program them and stuff,” Matthew said. “And then in case of a school shooting or fire, they can locate where the shooter is or they can go and search for students to see if they're still in the fire.”

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A statement from Jodie Marshall, the engineering teacher and robotics coach at North Forsyth High School(Image by Jodie Marshall)

But for now, both plan to continue adding to their list of robotics awards next year.

Matthew asked to buy a new notebook on the way home from Texas, saying that he already had ideas for his next robot.

“To me, it's going to be intriguing to see what these kids that are growing up in robotics are going to be able to do later,” Natalie said.

For more information on the Technology Student Association, visit tsaweb.org/tsa.

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at justine.lookenott@newsbreak.com.

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I cover local news in Forsyth County, GA. My debut into the writing world began at the age of 10 when I won an essay contest in Around Acworth Magazine in which I wrote about spending the summer with my pet goat, Eclair. Since graduating from Kennesaw State University, I have been published in several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta area including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta School Guide, What Now Atlanta, Newcomer Magazine, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.

Forsyth County, GA
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