It's #STEMDay! Stem stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and for good measure, many have started to use STEAM so we can include Arts in the initiative. All things used in our cardboard world and beyond. Schools have special support for STEM & STEAM programs such as Robotics Club, which is what I am super excited to talk about today.
I have been coaching robotics at Eliza A Blaker School 55 in Indianapolis for NINE YEARS! In fact, I got involved with this program around the same time I dove into the board game hobby.
We started out with FIRST LEGO and had support from TechPoint Youth Foundation & the local Kiwanis with funding and volunteers!
Over time we realized VEX IQ was a better fit for us, and that is what we still use today. Since we switched to VEX, our team has been able to get robots built MUCH faster, allowing us to go to competition!
Part of our work is simply getting the kids to work together as a team. It's super fun to build and drive the robot so the more robots we have, the smaller each team can be which allows more hands-on time with each bot. We were able to provide enough robots this year to have a max of 3-4 kids per team.
The competition is played on a 6’ x 8’ rectangular field. Two robots compete in the Teamwork Challenge as an alliance in 60 second long teamwork matches, working collaboratively to score points. That means two teams work together to combine points for their score each round.
Teams also compete in the Robot Skills Challenge where one robot takes the field to score as many points as possible. These matches consist of Driving Skills Matches, which will be entirely driver controlled, and Programming Skills Matches, which will be autonomous with limited human interaction.
One way we break the ice each year and help the kids get used to teamwork under pressure is to play Quirky Circuits! This game does a great job of demonstrating programing, working with limited information, movement consideration, and teamwork.
In the VEX IQ Competition, teams of students are tasked with designing and building a robot to play with other teams in a game-based engineering challenge. This year, the challenge is Slapshot. Check out the Game video:
Is this not just the COOLEST THING EVER? We saw the high school kids are building DRONES this year. HOLY COW! I wish we had this when I was in grade school.
This year we were able to get a jump on the game with a summer camp and had our first bot built for testing by the time we started normal club meetings this semester! We are super pumped and have more bots ready to compete than any previous year.
Each bot can only be so big so they have to make all this happen in a tight package. The scoring objects are 2.5” diameter Discs. There are a total of (45) Discs on the field (THAT IS A LOT OF STUFF ON THE FIELD).
We are now in the testing phase with the bots to see how they work while on the field. They have a lot to consider this year for scoring opportunities and will be looking at how fast the bots can move, pick up and shoot the Discs, and how far they go. Not to mention general mobility!
The object of the game is to score as many points as possible with the partner team by scoring Discs in Goal Zones, removing Discs and touching Contact Zones at the end of the Match. There is a lot we need to do to make sure each bot is ready for the task ahead.
We are now prepping for competition and ready for our best season YET! We work to keep this program affordable so more kids can participate and that means we are always looking for sponsors to help support us. Learn more about our team needs here. And if you would like to help the club, please drop me a line at email@example.com.
If you are interested in getting a program like this set up at your local school, check out this website for helpful resources.