Robotics challenge pushes students to find answers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Robotics challenge pushes students to find answers

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Remote controllers are out and the robots are ready to roll. For Thomas Stevens and the rest of the Robohawk team, the goal is to learn as much as they can.

"If we could score at least one point that would be great, since we haven't scored anything before this," said Stevens.

Students across the country comprise 30 different teams at Saturday's competition. The Champlain Valley Union high school students consider themselves the underdog team in this year's 'FIRST Tech Challenge.' FIRST (for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national scholarship program working to inspire young people to become leaders of science and technology.

"Some of the kids participating in these games will find the cure for cancer, they're going to be finding energy solutions," said Vice Chairman of FIRST, John Abele. "This is the type of mindset that leads to great solutions. Not just technical ones but solutions for society."

Abele says the robotics challenge pushes students to think like engineers and work with opponents to find answers. "The game is designed in a very interesting way. The only way you can really win, is in fact to collaborate with your competitor," said Abele.

Although it may seem like these robots are battling it out in the ring, the teams pick alliances prior to the competition in order to get as many points as possible in the competition. Abele says, "it's not just about building a team, it's how do you get people to solve a problem? How do you collaborate to solve that problem? How do you reach out and learn from others?"

Robohawks' head coach and CVU teacher, Olaf Verdonk, agrees and says competitions like these are the best learning environments for a student.

"Frankly, team work skills, technology they have to learn, the problem solving skills, these are all the skills these kids need to have to get into a good college, to get a good job," said Verdonk, "it's what colleges want to see, it's what employers want to see."

"There's a lot of hands-on stuff that you don't get in the classroom," explains Stevens. So, whether you're in for the win or just looking to learn something new, robotic matches place students in a battleground of inspiration.

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