Students explore STEM careers in Botball competitions
Battle lines were drawn inside Mission Bay High School’s gymnasium as students from San Diego County competed in the 2014 Botball Assistive Robotics Sand Diego Regional Tournament on March 29. The tasks, to have Botball students develop effective robot technologies to solve state-of-the-art problems. This year’s challenge was in assistive robotics, that in the future could help those with disabilities with robotic technology that can assist with simple physical therapy activities using the built Botguy.
As part of SDSU’s Exploring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Careers Initiative and funded by Exploring STEM Careers Initiative (ESCI), more than 300 students from Southern California schools competed in this combination of wits and engineering. With less than three months to prepare, students were given kits to assemble the Botguy robot, learn the software code to run it and then without any help from instructors and mentors, compete in four categories of operation.
Many students represented East County in this competition. By the end of the tournament, Lemon Grove Academy won an Alliance 1st Place Award and Cajon Park Middle School in Santee was a finalist in a double elimination. Be Wise, a program of the San Diego Science Alliance Better Education for Women in Science in Engineering led an all-girl teams, with girls from schools throughout the county. Consisting of several East County students, Be Wise Team A won an Alliance 2nd Place Award and both teams received certificates for Outstanding Overall Design.
Melissa Esparza, El Capitan High School said her team Be Wise Team A consisted of eight girls that met outside of school since January working on its Botguy and getting ready for competition.
“It’s fun to use your hands, especially when you are being productive,” she said. “Taking the small components that we were given and creating something that works is amazing.”
Esparza said the competition was tough on the floor.
“When we run into problems, especially here in competitions, we can get together and fix in on the fly.”
Robin Kendall, San Diego Science Alliance said they worked with a grant from the National Science Foundation and SDSU. She said the program is phenomenal in that it teaches the students coding and engineering design.
“This is great for the students because it prepares them in taking more advanced courses in high school and college towards engineering, computer science and all of the STEM careers," said Kendall. "There is a great need both locally and in the nation for these types of education and skills. This not only helps the students get excited, but helps the teachers that are not taught engineering.”
Nancy Taylor, San Diego Science Alliance co-founder said this program is awesome and rocks both students and teachers. She said the girls entered the Be Wise program in the 7th and 8th grade and has followed these girls offering them opportunities and other events that fall in under STEM curriculum.
“Over the past nine weeks of training we have watched these girls design and be creative about how to address the challenge,” she said. “This has been a fun dynamic watching the girls and their mentors problem solve, and be here today not just to compete, but to have a great time. It is a sports like atmosphere, but they have had a complex set of requirements to respond to.”