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Robotics Competition Rallies Student Interest in STEM

January 21, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author
  • Col. Sherwood Backer, USA, systems automation engineer, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, chats with a Fearless Robotics team member at the 2014 VEX All-American Robotics Competition, San Antonio.

The U.S. Army recently encouraged science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education by sponsoring a robotics contest for Texas middle and high school students. The VEX Robotics Competition (VRC) held in San Antonio comprised more than 50 teams from Texas schools. The DiscoBots, Houston; T-VEX, Arlington, Texas; and Pasadena Independent School District Robotics, Houston, took home the Winning Alliance trophies as tournament champions of the competition held as part of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl events.

Contest rounds consisted of two two-team alliances facing off in a game of VEX Toss Up. The game is played on a 12-foot by 12-foot field. Scoring entails moving colored BuckyBalls and large balls into the Middle Zone and Goal Zone; stashing them into the goals; and hanging or hanging with a ball at various heights off a colored bar at the end of the match. Each match involved a 15-second autonomous period and 105-second driver-controlled play period.

Col. Sherwood Baker, USA, systems automation engineer, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, talked shop with some of the competitors between rounds. “This is good, because we can see upcoming students that want to get involved in engineering, science, robotics—the kind of things we need in the Army,” he says.

With an increase in reconnaissance robots used to pick up improvised explosive devices and keep soldiers further from harm’s way, Baker says this competition is extremely relevant.

The competition is one of a series of VEX Robotics competitions that take place internationally throughout the year. 

Watch this video for more details on the Toss Up game:

Watch here for a closer look at the finals:

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