Summer 2016

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Page 22 of 43 | 23 summer 2016 Lego League, Jr., Lego League, Tech, and Robotics. During this frst year of the pilot program, UIL will sponsor Tech and Robotics championships. The Tech challenge is a feld game where teams work in alliance against other teams. The competition's theme changes each year, and FIRST provides teams with a starter kit of the parts that they will need. Schools may have more than one FIRST team, but each team needs to declare its category at the beginning of the season. Once teams receive the season's challenge, they have eight to ten weeks, depending on their competition category, to design, build, and program their robots. This year's Tech challenge is based on a mountain rescue scenario. In the Robotics competition, teams collaborate to breach their opponents' fortifcations and launch boulders through their towers before capturing them. As with the BEST programs, FIRST teams are also judged on their design notebook, marketing skills, and sportsmanship. ROBOTS IN ACTION Shawn Schmuck, a teacher at Keller High School, has coached robotics teams for the past four years —two at Keller and two in Fort Worth ISD—and he is planning to have his robotics teams compete in the UIL pilot program next fall. This year, he has 22 students on four teams participating in his robotics program, and 45 are already on the list for next year. Schmuck says the new UIL program ofers many benefts. "It opens up possibilities for the students, and it is a signifcant item for students to put on their resume as they apply to colleges. Also, every UIL program the school participates in goes toward recognition and awards for the school." Schmuck has seen frsthand the positive efect the robotics program has had on his students. The students learn how to manage time, materials, and money—all skills that will serve them well in future business endeavors. In addition, they learn how to work as a team and succeed in a competitive environment. "The team pulls together a diverse group of students, forcing them to depend on each other and providing an opportunity to make high- quality friends," says Schmuck. Many of Schmuck's students have never participated in extracurricular activities before, but now they spend hours each week working with team members on their robots. Paul W. Johnson, the robotics coach at Galena Park High School, echoes Schmuck's comments about teamwork, saying, "The major beneft of having a competitive robotics team is that the students get to learn how to work together and overcome the challenges of the current game." Beyond the teamwork skills the students acquire, they learn lessons that complement the STEM concepts being taught in their regular classes. Through the robotics program, they are learning about electricity, forces, and computer programming. Johnson says that joining the robotics team "exposes students to the various engineering processes that are used to build a successful robot." Most of Schmuck's team members are planning on majoring in engineering- related felds. "Robotics is an extracurricular activity that directly prepares them for their career, and it gets them excited to go into the engineering feld," he says. "Colleges like to see robotics 2 3 Shawn Schmuck coaches robotics at Keller High School. continued on page 40

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