Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

World Robotics Competition Draws Adolescent Inventors

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

World Robotics Competition Draws Adolescent Inventors

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * Back in August, three members of Barnwell Middle School's robotics team came up with the idea of developing an app to help teachers incorporate reading lessons into other subject areas, such as science and math.

On Friday, they and six other St. Charles County teammates were among about 17,000 students from across the nation and world competing in the FIRST Championship at the America's Center and Edward Jones Dome.

Their app was part of the competition.

"The question was, 'How can we improve education or learning?' " said Sarah Zimmerman, a Barnwell eighth-grader, as she and teammate Riley Lawson demonstrated how to use the app on a smartphone. "We came up with this idea to help with cross-curriculum. That's when you combine two subjects or disciplines."

As thousands of high school students competed with 120-pound robots, middle schoolers in the America's Center were competing with their inventions.

They're part of a robotics division called Lego League. Its requirements are twofold: Teams must use about 1,100 Lego pieces, motors, sensors and gears to craft a robot that can complete various tasks on a game table; and they must develop a solution to a real- world problem. This year the theme is education.

In one booth after another, middle schoolers showed off their inventions some of which have patent applications pending.

A team from Peoria, Ill., designed a board game to combat summer learning loss, and they aligned it with Common Core. A team from Forsythe County, Georgia designed song books to teach Braille to the blind.

A team from Idaho developed a backpack that could stretch to accommodate the many pounds of books and school supplies students lug around.

"It works because there's a layer of latex between two layers of polyester fabric," said Marissa Wirig, a member the a sixth-grade team from the North Idaho STEM Charter Academy, as she showed how the "stretch pack" works. "Nylon is stronger, so we have that on the very bottom."

The annual competition has grown every year since 2011 when it was first held in downtown. This year it spills from the convention center onto two other sites the adjacent Renaissance Hotel, and Union Station about 15 blocks away. …

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