The Yadkin robotics teams at area elementary and middle schools are racking up high praise from area leaders as well as awards locally and statewide.
“Our Yadkin Bots program was created to introduce elementary kids to the concepts of robotics and automation used by so many of the industries in our county,” explained Yadkin County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kevin Austin. “Since its inception it has and will continue to expand to link our elementary, middle, and high schools with our community college and its recent expansion to create a pathway to careers in Yadkin County for our boys and girls.”
There are 15 robotics teams at the elementary and middle schools with an expansion planned at the high school level for next year.
Last year the For-BOTS team claimed the top prize in the county’s FIRST LEGO League Robotics Tournament. The Lego robotics program is now in its second year at county elementary and middle schools. The For-BOTS team from Forbush Elementary School has now gone on to compete and win in regional and statewide robotics competitions.
The team placed first in the Robot Table Performance and Project Presentation categories in the Boone regional tournament. The For-BOTS placed first in Robot Programming in the North Carolina FIRST LEGO League Tournament and claimed a second-place award in Robot Table Performance.
Completing tasks with a robot made from Legos may sound like child’s play, but the students are learning a multitude of skills which will even carry with them as they prepare for college and the workforce.
“The students have learned and applied new skills in design, engineering, programming, problem solving, and critical thinking,” said Brock Hennings, one of the team’s mentors. “Additionally, they have had to demonstrate their skills during judging and through competition against other FIRST LEGO teams.”
Hennings went on to explain, “FIRST LEGO League competitions are somewhat different than other competitive school events because the scores and robot performance rely solely with the students. The coaches and mentors are not allowed to advise or even be present during judging or the robot table performance. The students compete in three judged categories: Robot Design,Competition Core Values, Project and in one Robot Performance category.”
A number of local businesses help to sponsor the Lego Robotics program at the schools and the For-BOTS team partnered with one of those business for its project theme.
“The competition project theme this year was entitled ‘Trash Trek’ where the students focused on identifying a problem with how trash is created and handled and then identifying an innovative solution to address the problem,” Hennings said. “The students partnered with Unifi to identify ways to educate others on plastic bottle recycling and to enhance local school plastic bottle recycling efforts for use in Unifi’s Repreve product.”
Professionalism is among the many skills the students are learning through the robotics competitions, Hennings said.
“The skills learned through this competition enhance the students’ abilities to solve problems, work a team, and communicate results. Additionally, the FIRST LEGO League stresses gracious professionalism which teaches the kids how to be courteous and act professionally while encouraging teamwork and idea sharing even during times of competition and stress. These concepts are all necessary skills that will lead to a successful college and work career,” Hennings said.
Yadkin County School Superintendent Dr. Todd Martin is extremely pleased with the work all of the students on the robotics teams have been doing.
“The Yadkin Bots Lego Robotics Program has been instrumental in opening up a new world for our students,” Martin said. “Not only does it incorporate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but it also teaches our students how to think critically and how to solve problems. They are also learning how to be creative, and they are learning what it means to be a good teammate. Additionally, they are learning how to produce something that can be competitive against others who are working to build similar products. These are all relevant, real-world skills.
“I also feel this program will create a desire in several of the students to pursue some type of electronics, mechatronics, robotics, or programming degree program when they graduate from our high schools. I believe that many of these students can graduate from Yadkin County Schools, go to school to pursue two- or four-year degrees, and then return home to Yadkin County to work. We are partnered with many businesses and industries here in Yadkin that can use people with the skill sets our students are developing through the robotics program.
“We have a great deal of support from local businesses and industries and we could not have this program without this support. These folks are investing in our children, our students here in Yadkin County Schools and I am so appreciative to all of them.”
Though the students say there are some challenges involved with robotics, they still have a lot of fun and they particularly enjoyed their experience at the state competition.
“Going to the state competition was a lot of fun, we worked together and had a great time,” said Keegan Martin. “The night before the competition the whole team went to eat together and had a great time.”
Cannon Doub called it “an exhilarating experience” that made him feel “superb.” As far as the challenges they faced in the competition, Doub said time management was one of the most difficult as each task they must complete with the robots is timed.
Riley Ruckman said she also proud of herself and the work her team had done. She said their project was fun because they got to learn about how Unifi makes its Repreve products from recycled material.
Cooper Hennings said the most fun part of the robotics team is designing and programming the robot. He, too, called the state competition win “exhilarating” and “pretty cool.”
“It felt good to compete at such a high level and when we won Robot Design it felt great,” said Aiden Lyon.
Also on the For-BOTS team are Tessa Angell, Zachary Edmonds, Hunter Hall, Lance Hutchens, Derek Matthews, Emma Mickles, Chase Smitherman and Jacob St. John.
Coaches for the team are teachers Joanna Queen and Tori Lyon as well as mentors Brock Hennings and Paul Angell.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.