For the second year in a row, my son Matt participated in the STEM ROBOTICS CHALLENGE held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center on June 6, 2014.
The STEM ROBOTICS CHALLENGE is an annual competition held by Virginia Beach City Schools for the purpose of furthering Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The annual competition had two challenging levels for students to become involved in. The overall theme for this year’s event was Sustainability, so both levels of competition involved this concept. Level 1 is the introductory level where students from 4th grade up to high school seniors can compete. Level 2 is designed for High School students with some experience with robotics. Over 700 students from 55+ VBCPS elementary, middle and high schools constructed over 400 robots that competed in the challenge.
This year, Matt was on the team for his middle school, meeting two days a week before school. Teams were responsible for designing, building, programing and ultimately controlling the robots to meet competition requirements. The robots then performed their specific task in a simulated beach arena. Matt’s middle school team had 12 students total; the team made 6 robots (3 of each type) and were paired up to complete the task. One robot was created to build a seawall by moving rocks from one side of the table to the other. The second robot was created to plant sea grass, also moving it from one side of the table to the other.
Although Matt’s robot didn’t make the semifinal round (only the top 66 teams advanced), teams were able to troubleshoot and adjust between runs. This was such a great experience for the kids- they learned the valuable lesson that although things seem to work on paper, they may not in actuality. Failing is not the end of the world; we call it Research & Development! Seeing what he was able to accomplish as part of a team was a wonderful thing for him, and made all those early mornings worth it.
More information about STEM and the schools can be found at http://www.vbschools.com
STEM K–12 robotic activities focus not only on collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking skills but also these STEM skills:
Science – Students investigate the physics of motion and energy transformation.
Technology – Students are introduced to basic computer programming, motor control, electronics and feedback systems.
Engineering – Students create a microcontroller for robotic manipulation and begin to understand “Mechatronics” and the relationships between electronic and mechanical systems.
Mathematics – Students demonstrate knowledge and application of measurement, ratios and proportions, conversion of units, applied geometry and probability through computational thinking