Robotics Competitions Cultivate Future Engineers

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Robot armThis week, two schools held a robotics competition. With one in Ridgeland, MS, and one in San Angelo, TX, they are certainly not the only robotics programs in the nation, but they’re a great example of how these programs are cultivating future engineers.

When children are young, their interests, hobbies, and even future careers can be influenced by their preferred toys. With just 15 minutes of free playtime, children use part of that time to learn mathematical and spatial principles. As they grow older, this could influence their decision to join, say, a robotics team.

Olde Towne Middle School in Ridgeland hosted the 2015 VEX Robotics Competition, which brings together area schools in order to create something. This year’s goal, for example, was to build a robot that could complete tasks such as getting a ball through a hoop.

The students work on their robot throughout the school year, building, programming, and maneuvering through mechanisms to get it just right. Many of these students are already on a track to a future career in engineering.

“I like doing this. I feel like I could really go somewhere with robotics,” said Ridgeland High sophomore Melvin. “It’s really a competitive game, like near the end there’s always a lot of stress on every team because everyone’s trying to win.”

“It’s pretty fun, just being able to go out there and have fun driving and helping people drive and just having a good time learning about engineering, then building robots and stuff like that,” Ridgeland High sophomore James Chatmon added.

The event also featured a VEX I-Q competition for elementary and middle school students to compete and learn about robotics.

A similar event in San Angelo was even bigger. They gathered hundreds of students, ranging from elementary school to high school, at the Houston Harte University Center at Angelo State University.

The 12th annual event, which was open to the public for free, was held by the Education Service Center Region 15. The goal was to showcase students’ work from their 49 school districts in West and Southwest Texas.

For this contest, students were tasked with perfecting a robot that could complete a certain task. They spent the day perfecting the programming, and then were called upon to demonstrate their robot’s abilities within a two-minute time limit.

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