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The Tjanaka Brothers Win High School Division of the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championship

Back in April, brothers Bryon Tjanaka, 17, and Dylon Tjanaka, 15, ventured out of Santa Clara and traveled to Louisville, Kentucky with the robot they engineered to compete in the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championship. At the time of the competition, Bryon Tjanaka was a sophomore and Dylon Tjanaka was a senior at Bellarmine College Preparatory. Their team, Team 86868: The Resistance, won the High School Division of the competition. The CBS Sports coverage of the event was aired in mid-June. (Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=9shA1fdX18w and catch the Tjanaka brothers at 47:43 and Bryon Tjanaka’s interview at 48:00.)

“The way that VEX works is that you first attend regional tournaments and from there, you qualify for a state championship,” said Bryon Tjanaka. “We attended 14 regional tournaments and we qualified multiple times for the state championship. From the state championship, we qualified for the world championship. There are multiple awards that qualify you for the world championship.”

Dylon Tjanaka shared that he and his brother competed against 563 teams in the High School Division from all around the globe at the world championship.

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“In VEX robotics, there is a kit you can purchase from their web site,” Dylon Tjanaka said. “These parts are all legal to use to build a robot—these parts include custom metals, motors, and an electric ‘brain’ to control the movements. This ‘brain’ is the microcontroller.”

“We started back in May 2016,” Bryon Tjanaka said. “From there, we created our design and we made a few prototypes. Over the course of the year, we gradually made small improvements here and there. Sometimes the improvements were small changes to some parts of the robot and other times we replaced entire subsystems.”

Dylon Tjanaka explained that at the tournament, his team paired up with other teams and played qualification matches. After each match, a team was ranked.

“After all the matches have been played, the top eight teams get to pick an alliance partner,” Dylon Tjanaka said. “With those alliance partners, they enter into the elimination round, and it’s a bracket, with quarter finals, semi-finals, and finals…We played the final match to determine the world championship.”

“This year’s game is called Starstruck; in it, the goal is to throw a star-shaped and cube-shaped object over a fence,” Bryon Tjanaka said. “We built a robot that was able to do that and we took pretty much the same robot to the state and world championship…The way we won, is that we threw more objects over the fence than the other team could. Our robot also threw the objects farther. The way this is scored is that the farther the objects are over the fence, they can be scored twice as much.”

In Kentucky, the Tjanaka brothers stayed with their parents at a hotel near the Kentucky Exposition Center where the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championship was held. Dylon Tjanaka recalled the beautiful rural scenery Kentucky offered.

Winning the High School Division of the competition meant taking home a big trophy and a banner. Both boys cited the experience competing and the connections they made with other like-minded robot-constructing enthusiasts as their main rewards.

“Even though the competition can be fierce, everyone is still great friends with each other,” Dylon Tjanaka said.

Visit www.roboticseducation.org for more information about the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, which leads the VEX Robotics Competition.

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