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The Robot Olympians

The Robot Olympians
Posted on 05/15/2018
A student reacts as he watches his Sphero navigate a maze at a robotics scrimmage for Jeffco elementary students.The stage was set, the nerves were real, and the competition was intense at this first-of-its-kind robotics scrimmage at Three Creeks K-8. It was sort of the Olympics for the tech set. Dozens of teams of Jeffco elementary students from several different schools were taking part. Some were skilled in VEX robotics.

“What we mostly do is push in the rings to where you get the points, and we get the twenty points first that way we can have points. If we have time then we lift them up and put them up on the actual base,” explained Kullerstrand Elementary student Analicia Snyder.

“I like it because you can drive it around a lot and you can do your creation,” added fellow Kullerstrand student Isabella Lovato.

Other teams were skilled in Spheros.

“A Sphero is a ball that an engine in it and it’s kind of like, you use it to do all sorts of stuff,” explained Swanson Elementary student Kadin Mitchell.

“You go straight, turnaround, hit a domino and then roll back go up and a ramp and hope to drop down and hit the other domino,” added Thomson Elementary student Tristan Bishop.

Whatever the type of robot, the basic strategy is the same.

“It’s just really building on and learning from your mistakes,” said Thomson student Gabriel Roybal.

The competition was the brainchild of Kullerstrand’s Digital Teacher Librarian Kyle Walker, who thought it would be a good showcase for all the different elementary STEM programs that have mushroomed across Jeffco in the last few years, with a robotics focus.

“The VEX kids have to design and build a robot so, they have to think about gears, angles, being able to pick something up; the weight of something, if it moves this way it’s going to make the whole thing fall over, so they have to think of counterbalance,” explained Walker. “They have to think about teamwork because they have different roles.”

For Spheros, those robots are already built, it’s all about programming.

“They have obstacle courses and mazes, and then they’re handed an iPad and a Sphero and say make this Sphero go through all these courses,” said Walker. “So, they have to sit down and off the top of their heads write the code. It’s block code, and they have to think in terms of angles; 90 degrees, 180 degrees, 270 degrees.”

On the fly problem solving and working through frustrating engineering challenges just comes with the territory for these robot Olympians.

“You get to make your design, you don’t have to, you can use your imagination,” said Lovato.

“The strategy is to really, figure out what the Sphero is going to do, how long and what distance it should roll for and what, at what speed,” added Mitchell.

No matter what happens in the competition, it’s all about having the right attitude.

“I just try my best to know that nothing bad will happen and it’s, well, everything’s ok no matter what happens,” said Kullerstrand student Abbrianna Snyder.

But there was that matter of homeschool pride.

“It’s kinda competitive,” said Bishop.

“Make sure you’re up for it,” said Roybal “And don’t get frustrated because it can be hard at times.”

Working with the team, though, is what makes it a great experience for these students.

“The best part would probably just, as a group and coming out and if you win you win if you get something you get something. It’s fun,” said Thomson student Zakery Haworth.

“The level of problem-solving that goes into this is so intense that when something works, it’s so amazing that, yeah, the excitement level just shoots through the roof,” added Walker.

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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