Over the past few weeks, all eight BCSS elementary schools hosted their own school-level robotics programming competitions using the twenty Roborobo robotics kits that are part of each elementary school’s STEAM Trunk. Using a scoring rubric to quantify how effectively and efficiently each student team was able to program their student-built two-wheeled robot to meet the programming challenge, each school identified their school’s Roborobo programming champions who would be eligible to compete at the system-level RAIL Championship. Every school was able to send two two-person teams to represent their school at the system championship. This year students in both 4th and 5th grade were eligible to compete.
This final challenge had each team generate code that would maneuver their own Mars Rover robot that had just landed on the surface of Mars. Using a terrain grid representing various significant Martian landmarks, such as Mount Sharp and the Gale Crater, students were tasked with programming their robots to venture from the landing site, while avoiding obstacles, to three specific points of interest and perform a 360 degree panoramic photograph sweep. Students then had to program their rovers to return to the landing site. As in the school competition, students had a scoring rubric to weigh their strategy options in order to maximize positive point maneuvers while minimizing choices that would result in point deducting penalties.
The 90-minute programming and testing period was a whirlwind of students running back and forth between the terrain model tables and their programming stations to test and revise their programs for precision and accuracy. The mechatronics classroom and laboratory was filled with chatter as teammates worked together to calculate distances, angles of rotation, and command delays down to the tenth of a second. Students’ brows could be seen furrowed in deep thought as they raced against the clock to get just the right combination of code to squeeze their bot through challenging choke points on the map. This was very often followed by a matching pair of fist pumps and synchronous “YES!” as teams would overcome one hurdle and move on to their next goal.
After time had elapsed and time for judging began, participants and the audience members were entertained by a much larger-scale robotics demonstration by Sims Academy’s own competitive Robotics Team, the Roboclovers, sponsored by Barrow 4H. Roboclover team members, led by Sims Academy mechatronics teacher Curtis Mathis, volunteered throughout the evening to help ensure that the event went smoothly.
Once the final scores were calculated and the necessary tie breaker protocols applied, teams were recognized for their accomplishments by members of UGA’s RAIL Program, Ike Choi Ph.D, John Mativo Ed.D, and Jen McGregor, as well as Dr. Robert Branch, Professor and Department Head of the Department of Career and Information Studies (Learning, Design, and Technology). Certificates and awards were given to all school champions. The top three performing teams, as well as all team coaches were awarded their very own Roborobo robotics kits. Awards, t-shirts, refreshments, and pizza were all very graciously provided by RAIL and Roborobo, Inc.
First Place: Drew Tullis & Gage Kennedy, Bramlett Elementary School (Coach: Todd Smith)
Second Place: Michael Hale & Micah Wilson, Holsenbeck Elementary School (Coach: Mindy McCage)
Third Place: Noah Anderson & Conrad Kesler, Auburn Elementary School (Coach: Laura Herring)
The competition was a great success and an example of the effectiveness of the strong partnership between UGA, Roborobo Inc, and the Barrow County School System.