MANATEE -- Students at Bayshore High said the true honor of the VEX World Robotics Championship in Anaheim, Calif., last week went to Bayshore High technology teacher Martha Proulx and her late husband, Roger Proulx, who were recognized for work with the students.
The couple was inducted into the VEX Hall of Fame as 2012-13 Volunteers of the Year for their activity in the robotics competition organization VEX and the Technology Student Association.
The honor was a surprise for Proulx, technology adviser at Bayshore High. She and Roger are known in the Technology Student Association for volunteering at competitions statewide, setting up arenas and serving as referees. They often kept track of all the bits and pieces that go into building the robots, and they would give tips to students on how to put their robots together long after regular working hours.
Proulx said it was common for she and her husband to volunteer at competitions that didn't involve Bayshore.
Roger Proulx died in February from a sudden heart attack. Through the loss, Martha was still
able to lead the Bayshore team to the worlds championship, where the students competed with robots bearing Roger's initials.
"It is a way of remembering him," Proulx said.
The Bayshore High team placed in the top 6 percent in the world out of 700 teams this year.
Martha said she is thrilled about her students' top six finish, especially considering what they went through to earn it.
"The airline lost our luggage, including the robots, and we did not get our stuff until midnight California time," Martha said. "This wiped out all of our prep time."
Team captain junior Madison Perry said the world event was a high-pressure competition.
"We had some great matches and we learned a lot," Perry said.
For the competition, student robots had to act autonomously as well as under team members' control to accomplish a set task in a given amount of time.
Team member Khang Tran said the competition offered team members a chance to learn from their mistakes to build better robots next year.
"We learn from looking though our pictures and recordings," Tran said.
The competition also was rewarding for Bayshore High School alumnus Nik Zapata.
Zapata, who graduated in 2012, serveed as an intern for the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, which organized the VEX robotics competitions. He served as assistant to the director of global operations, overseeing events and booths. He earned the internship through volunteering as a referee for prior competitions.
Because of the leadership displayed at the world robotics competition, Zapata was offered a paid summer internship helping run robotics events in San Francisco.
Martha said she encourages all her students to volunteer at the events because it can lead to opportunities.
The competition was for many student their first visit to California, and they said they enjoyed touring Anaheim, visiting Disneyland and meeting students from around the globe.
This was the last VEX competition of the school year but some Bayshore robotics team members will soon head to Orlando under Martha's direction for the Technology Student Association national competition June 28.
The winning VEX World Robotics Championship high school alliance is from Worchester, Mass., and Auckland, New Zealand. The winning college team is from Cancun, Mexico.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.