Summer 2016

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

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in THE magine a high school gym flled with cheering parents and fans. A contingent of the school's marching band plays the fght song while the cheerleaders and school mascot lead the crowd in cheers. A high school basketball game? Girls' volleyball tournament? Pep rally for the football team? Nope. This crowd is gathered for the regional BEST robotics competition. Teams on the gym foor concentrate, guiding their robots through the designated challenges. When a robot succeeds in completing its task, the crowd goes wild and the team celebrates. In cases where the robot breaks or fails to complete its task in the allotted time, the people in the stands groan in sympathy with the dejected team members. After hours of competition, the winning team carries of the championship trophy and bragging rights. The next stop is the state championship competition. Robotics clubs have long been popular in Texas schools. Two programs—BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) Robotics and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in Texas—have been inspiring kids to develop their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills to create functioning robots. And now the University Interscholastic League (UIL) is partnering with BEST and FIRST to create a pilot program for UIL state championship robotics competitions. Texas is the fourth state in the country to develop this kind of program. All of Texas's 1,400 UIL member schools will be eligible to participate, making it the largest school-based robotics program in the country. In the December 2015 announcement about the pilot program, UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt said, "There is a clear need to prepare today's students for the jobs of tomorrow. ... STEM is a priority for UIL, and FIRST and BEST have a proven track record of success in preparing students for a future in STEM careers through robotics competitions." As a result of this partnership, Texas will now host two UIL state championship robotics competitions. The FIRST state championship will take place in Austin July 28-30, 2016, as the culmination of the spring FIRST robotics season. The second will be held in November, in conjunction with the BEST state championship competition. Qualifcation for these championship competitions will be based on team performance during the regular FIRST and BEST competition seasons. The UIL championship will be separate from the FIRST and BEST championships, meaning eligible teams will be able to participate in both. Schools that win these UIL state championships will have the same bragging rights as those that win contests in the state UIL academics, athletics, and music categories. Some robotics team sponsors are even talking about varsity letters for participants. Having a statewide competition for robotics recognizes the importance that STEM- related felds of study play in our state's future. I Robotics R o b o t i c s Robotics R o b o t c s STORY HEATHER O'KEEFFE GARDNER ||| PHOTOS WYATT MCSPADDEN | 21 summer 2016 classroom

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