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DCSD Middle Schoolers Compete in Sixth Annual Robotics Competition

group of students, teacher demonstrating where one of the student's robots needs to be able to reach

Have you ever watched a Sumo Wrestling match between two robots? If you didn’t attend the DCSD Middle School Robotics Competition last Saturday, you missed your opportunity (you can catch a glimpse, below)!

A total of 125 students from Sierra, Sagewood, Rocky Heights, and Mountain Ridge Middle Schools, as well as from Arma Dei Academy in Highlands Ranch, designed, engineered, constructed and programmed robots of all shapes, sizes and purposes for the competition, which was held at Sierra Middle School.


“Every year this event attracts 12-year-olds who have never done anything like this,” said Cam Randolph, a teacher at Rocky Heights that founded the Robotics Competition six years ago. “It’s very basic programming and building, but we’re talking about 12, 13 and 14-year-old kids. The smallest of success at this level hopefully carries on into high school, college, and hopefully raising up another generation of engineers, programmers or designers.”

The competition consisted of seven challenges, all of which occurred simultaneously, with students eager to engineer the strongest robot that can pull the most weight (“Tractor Pull”), for example, or the fastest robot (“Drag Race”), or a robot that can perfectly navigate a maze (“Maze Runner”). Randolph has found that some of the eighth graders will breeze right past the challenges and dive head-first into the open design demonstration, in which students design their robots to complete real-life tasks. Tasks such as seeking out dog waste, scooping it up and storing it in its own storage tank. Yes— a student designed and built that!

“The open design competition is where it becomes really exciting for us,” Randolph said. “They see the challenge but say, ‘we want to take it to another level.’”

Over at Sierra Middle School, teachers have found that some of their kids became motivated to learn advanced math to gain an edge in the competition.

student assembles robot“We had a team of kids who saw the NavBot challenge, where you are given a distance and angle to turn, another distance, and you must get to the ending-point fast but also accurately,” said Sierra teacher Kelly Swiryn, who coordinated and hosted this year’s competition. “The rules say that if you are able to learn trigonometry, you can program it into your robot and go the shortcut instead of driving the whole path of the triangle. These students said, ‘we can learn trig, and if we do we’ll probably win.’ So they met with their math teacher at 6:30 in the morning every Wednesday this semester just to learn trig— they’re not in trig yet— but they learned enough trig so they can put the formulas into the robot.”

Swiryn thinks learning should always be like this.

“We say it’s hard to get kids to do their homework, but these kids showed up at 6:30 in the morning to learn advanced math just so they could apply it,” he said.

Randolph says at Rocky Heights, they are just hoping kids can find their passion to connect to some kind of activity in their building.

“We get all sorts of kids interested in this event," he said. "Overall, we want to generate a passion for creativity, design, building, and engineering, and we let them run with whatever they want to do.”

Pictured right: Sierra student Georgia Reisdorph assembles a robot in preparation for the Sumo competition, immediately after winning the NavBot challenge.

November 15, 2017 | By CSilberman | Category: Middle School Education

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