Robotics is more than just a competition for students at Scott County School District 2. It is a way for students to learn problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, technology, programming, science, mathematics, and engineering.
“It’s the wave of the future,” said Chuck Rose, director of elementary education at Scott. “It’s relatively new in our area. This the first year for our region.”
Since the program’s fall kickoff, Scott 2 students worked on building, designing, and using their team’s robot to prepare for the VEX IQ Crossover Robotic Challenge held on Jan. 21 at Mid-America Science Park. At the crossover challenge, 30 elementary and middle school teams from across the state competed to put their robot to the test and move forward to the state/regional event. Scott 2 had teams from Scottsburg Elementary School, Johnson Elementary School, Scottsburg Middle School, Lexington Elementary School, and Vienna-Finley Elementary School that competed in the crossover challenge.
“It took four hours to build the robot,” said Patty Clancy, robotics coach at VFES. “The kids do the work. I‘m more like the facilitator.”
The teams used Vex Robotics kits that included hundreds of pieces to assemble. The teams had to design the robots to meet the challenge guidelines — each year has a different challenge. The coaches and teams were able to use the help of Ray Niehaus, managing director of innovation and technology at MASP, who worked with Rose in starting the robotics program in the schools this year.
“Ray Niehaus has been wonderful here,” Clancy said.
“Mr. Niehaus helped coach the coaches,” Rose said.
“Being able to practice at Mid-America provided the team with additional experience before going into the tournament,” said Allison Rademacher, robotics coach at Lexington Elementary School. “Having Mid-America as a resource was huge in helping prepare the team for the competition. We are very thankful for Mid-America. [...] This gave students the chance to really enhance their skills and work more on strategy.”
During the crossover challenge, students had one minute each round to score the maximum amount of points by pushing hexballs, balancing on a bridge, and putting hexballs in the goal areas. While competing, the two-person team has to switch drivers about halfway through the round. Throughout the day of competition, each student on the team will take a turn at driving the robot with the handheld controller, which resembles a video game controller.
“I thought it would be really fun,” said Jackson Barnett, a fifth-grade student at VFES and a member of the robotics team. “I love building robots. When I joined, I got really into it.”
“Robotics is a huge opportunity for the kids, not to mention, it’s also a lot of fun. The collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, engineering, technology, and programming that goes into robotics really benefits all areas of life,” Rademacher said.
By the end of the crossover challenge, LES Robotics team placed fourth after going to the finals round. The other elementary teams, VFES and SES, placed in the top two-thirds of the competition. The JES team placed 22nd, and the two Scottsburg Middle School teams placed 13th and 25th.
“After making it out of the qualifying round and into the finals, we placed fourth overall at the competition. My kids have amazed me from the beginning with their understanding, problem solving, and critical thinking skills,” Rademacher said. “Unfortunately, we do not move on to the state tournament with our fourth place finish. The kids weren’t ready to see the season end and were already asking me if we could still practice at Mid-America for fun. Seeing the kids enjoying robotics was very exciting for me.
Next year, Rose hopes to grow the program.
“I’m looking at grant opportunities for more robots in the elementary schools,” Rose said.
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