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UT Team Flexes Robotic Muscle at VEXU World Competition

UT’s YNOT competitive robotics team finished in 11th place in Robot Skills and received the Community Award at the 2018 Vex Robotics World Championship, held April 25-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. This leaves the team ranked fifth worldwide in this year’s VEXU Skills Competition.

Officially recognized by the Guinness World Records as the largest robotics competition on earth, the VEX Robotics World Championship is a week-long competitive robotics event featuring more than 1,400 of the best VEX Competition teams, leading technology companies, and experts in the field.

The Community Award recognizes a team that demonstrates strong community-building skills, contributes support to students and teams beyond their own school, and makes a concerted effort to raise support in their community for technology education programs.

The YNOT drive team, from left: Buddy Swan, Grant Kobes, and Craig Wiley.

Industrial engineering student Grant Kobes founded the YNOT team in fall 2017 as part of a four-year leadership project through the Honors Leadership Program. His vision was to increase interest in STEM among students in the Knoxville community through competitive robotics. During the spring 2018 semester, the team expanded to 11 members and moved its building operations into the college’s Innovation and Collaboration Studios after getting started in a dorm room.

The team previously took home both the Robot Skills Champion and the Overall Excellence Awards at the Purdue Winter Vortex Qualifier on February 24. This win qualified YNOT for one of only 26 spots at the world competition. Purdue judges complimented the team’s engineering notebook and interview skills, and told them they were the unanimous Excellence winner.

The YNOT robot build began in a dorm room.
The YNOT robot build began in a dorm room.

“Throughout the season, we have contributed over a hundred hours of volunteer service to VEX and VRC by giving our time to help run high school and middle school competitions,” said Kobes. “At these events, our team members serve as either judges or referees for the competitions, helping things to run smoothly for participants. We believe that it is incredibly important for these competitions for younger students to be rewarding so that they maintain interest in science and engineering in college and STEM careers later in life.”

In addition to volunteering at events, the team is also dedicated to mentoring younger teams from around the country. This collaboration began during Kobes’s high school career, when he created the WhyNot Alliance—the namesake for Team YNOT. He worked hard to maintain this alliance over the off-season and has since expanded its membership to 16 teams, many of whom won state titles and competed at this year’s World Championship.

Said Kobes, “Our alliance creates a safe space for communication and collaboration with these young teams, where they feel comfortable asking us for advice and sharing their struggles and innovations.”