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March 1, 2014

Sidney students brace for robotics competition

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — An upcoming robotics competition is challenging a group of Sidney students to overcome engineering obstacles.

The eight elementary students in robotics teacher Deb Vaughan’s class will be meeting after school Tuesday to perfect their creations. They are part of a group being coordinated by Sidney Project Lead the Way teacher Christine Race. She is bringing 35 students and 11 robots made by teams from the elementary, middle and high schools to the competition March 11 at Broome Community College.

It not only gives students a chance to be in an academic competition, but robotics gives students an opportunity to use their science, technology, engineering and math skills, Race said.

Vaughan said she teaches the subject to students in grades 3-6, as a way to use those skills in solving real problems. This is the second year for the class and the first time her students are competing. The competition gives them the opportunity for team-building and problem-solving, she said.

The eight elementary students, as most have in the event, volunteered for the challenge. They came after school and over their break to build their robots, Vaughan said. On Tuesday, they will meet at the high school to decide on their three best robots that have met the challenge of overcoming various obstacles to pick up objects and place them in buckets. They are using iPads as remote controls.

“I just guide them” in the development, Vaughan said. They use mostly student-generated ideas, that each team of two or three works on. Six of the elementary students going said they were looking forward to the competition. All but one are in sixth grade.

Lindsay Pierce said: “We support each other. It’s been a great great experience.” The hardest part was building the robot, she said, but they found the design on the Internet and worked out the problems at the meetings. Sydney Christensen said: “It’s a lot of fun to be able to manipulate the robots. Being part of the competition will be awesome.”

Hannah Gray said she has learned from the experience that “when you run into problems, you can’t give up.”

Adrienne Paternoster said she has wanted to be a bio-engineer since third grade, so being part of robotics has been a great opportunity.

Jillian Robinson said her team’s robot has been working very well, adding: “It’s a challenge but I love it.”

Fifth-grader Kate Vaughan, the teacher’s daughter, said it can get frustrating at times, but she has learned to take her time to think challenges through. “Its been really cool,” she said.

Also on the team are Jonathan McNamara and Sarah Bessett, both in fifth grade.