Students Excel at 4-H Robotics Showcase

Article excerpt

Byline: Submitted by University of Illinois Extension

Twenty-five teams of middle-school students from DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties displayed their technical, creative and teamwork skills during the 4-H Robotics Box Bot Showcase in Elgin March 22.

Throughout the afternoon, 4-H'ers showcased their Lego Mindstorm robots in creativity, table performance, and technical categories. They also completed a teamwork challenge without their Bots. The event was led by 4-H Robotics Team got robot?, which competes at the FIRST Tech Challenge level, and was hosted by University of Illinois Extension at Abbott Middle School in Elgin.

The 2014 4-H Robotics Box Bot Showcase Championship went home with Trinity Trailblazers Team White of DuPage County. Reserve Champion honors went to Creepy Pasta from Abbott Middle School in Elgin and Herrick Middle School Team No. 3 of Downers Grove.

"Everybody's a winner because they completed their robots, participated in this fantastic opportunity and learned from their experience. Plus, it's fun!" said Donna Nuger, University of Illinois Extension educator, 4-H Youth Development.

"Seeing all the hard work and creativity come to life in the eyes of the kids and in the maneuvers of their Bots is just awesome."

Other top awards Saturday included: Most Creative to Team Spirit of O'Neill Middle School in Downers Grove; the Engineering Design Award to Robot Rovers of Bryan Middle School in Elmhurst; the Programming Award to Brick Force of Yorkville; the Teamwork Award to Team JT of O'Neill Middle School; the Team Spirit Award to A.I.M of Sandburg Middle School in Elmhurst; the Judges' Award to Churchville Middle School Team Purple, Elmhurst; the Rookie Award to Trinity Trailblazers Team Green of DuPage County; and Best Table Performance to Trinity Trailblazers Team White.

All participating teams are encouraged to participate in the sixth annual State 4-H Robotics Competition May 3, said Extension Educator Bob Smith, who leads the Illinois 4-H Robotics program. The state event is designed to provide 4-H members an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of programming, robot and field design, and teamwork, he said.

"The great thing about Saturday's event is our local teams have now experienced a competition format and received helpful feedback from qualified judges," Nuger said. "We hope many of our teams choose to go to state, using this experience to learn, adjust and move forward. It's not about how you finished Saturday, it's about where you end up from learning and doing."

That is a key tenant of 4-H: Learning by Doing.

"I like hands-on projects," said Moriah Stefanski of the Champion Trinity Trailblazers Team White. "It was so much more fun than I expected because we got to do it and learn it ourselves."

Meg VanDyke, teacher and coach for O'Neill Middle School, stresses that to her teams as well. "It's about teamwork, problem solving and figuring things out," she said. "I'm not here to do it for them, but to encourage and guide them."

One of her students, Haley Gray, said that's part of the fun. …