So, you guys know i teach robotics in an after-school program, right? Well, this past weekend was a robotics competition between the six different TechStart classes in the Seattle area. The turnout was great: lots of students and families along with TechStart teachers, TAF (our parent organization) staff, and volunteers.
I teach at two different schools, so i had two teams to coach in the competition (besides having helped set the thing up). One of my teams took third place, which was very cool, and my other team tied for fourth. The enthusiasm and focus shown by these students was incredible; we're talking about kids aged 10-14, who spent a beautiful Saturday morning in a hot gym pitting robots against each other.
The events were: Tug-of-war, BasketBot, Archery, and Drag Racing. Sofia served as the ball girl for BasketBot, an event that required the students to use the robot to shoot a ball into a cardboard box. She did a great job picking up all the stray ping pong balls while staying out of the line of fire. Archery was later called "the surprise excitement" by one of the audience members. It didn't actually involve any arrows, and i had assumed it would be a bit of a bore for the audience.
We had a target on the floor, and the students were told how far the center of the target was from the starting line (they were only told this at the competition, not beforehand). The kids then had to program their robots to go that distance, but there was a twist. The software doesn't have an option for plugging in a distance for a robot to travel; the teams had to use the speed of the robot (which they had worked out in class) and figure out how many seconds or wheel rotations the robot had to run for.
It ended up being pretty suspenseful, and there was a little drama when the robots actually ran. One team ran the wrong program on their robot, so they ended up about five feet from the target, while another team hit it dead on center. My teams unfortunately had some steering issues, and both robots veered away from the target at the last moment.
All in all, it was a great event, and i hope we do it again next year. The winning team got to take a trophy back to their school. I myself built the trophy out of yellow and red Lego bricks (eBay is the place to find specific colors for cheap, by the way), and i think it turned out pretty well:
Technology Access Foundation (TAF) unfortunately had a pretty serious fundraising shortfall this year due to the recession, and a number of administrative staff including my immediate supervisor have been laid off. In addition, one section of TechStart (luckily not the section i teach) is in dire straits and may not return in September. If any of you are looking to donate a little money to keep a well-deserving non-profit above water, please consider our global giving campaign. Thanks: