Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Students Compete for LEGO Trophy

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Students Compete for LEGO Trophy

12:43pm Jul 01, 2013
Keri Brown

LEGOs have captured the imagination of children for decades as building blocks for all sorts of creative designs. On Friday, elementary and middle school students from Winston-Salem/ Forsyth County Schools built robots from the classic toy during a special competition at the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

The Robot Fun Run Community Challenge helps prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Students use LEGO NXT robotics kits to build a robot and then program it to perform multiple tasks.

10 year-old Nolan Kraft couldn’t wait for his chance to work with the building blocks.

“I just love working with technology and robots and stuff like that. I like all of the obstacles and all of the people,” says Kraft.

The event is sponsored by the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce Tech Council and Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

In 2011, the Chamber partnered with the business community to raise funds for a robotics program in the public school system. A team was created in each of the 17 public middle schools throughout Forsyth County. Today, there 33 robotics teams. 

Steve Susalka helped organize the competition. He says the Community Challenge gives students a chance to work directly with a professional.

“We have invited nine different companies and institutions from around the community. We have paired each of those teams up with a middle or elementary school coach to teach them how to program their robot, how to score points on the mat and use critical thinking to solve some of these challenges,” says Susalka.

Emma McSawley is 10 years-old and entering the fifth grade. She says, “What I really like about working with these robots is the testing, because I used to think the only way robots could go is left, right and forward. I’ve now learned that you can make them go backwards.”

After the teams build and program their robots, they test them on the 8 X 4 foot obstacle course. Some of the challenges include getting the robot to throw a ball and knock down bowling pins and crossing a narrow bridge.

Each team has 2 ½ minutes to score as many points as possible.

“What I like most about building and what I like most about today is programming and working with a real engineering firm,” says 11 year-old Sage Khanna.

“Honestly, I feel like they are teaching me. It’s pretty crazy how smart these kids are. It’s pretty incredible,” says Jacob Bowman, a software developer at Inmar.

Inmar is in the process of moving its corporate headquarters to the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and is one of several businesses who participated in the robot competition.

“I hope they are seeing our way of problem solving. It is a little bit different, because we are thinking a little longer about the problem first before we try to solve it, so I hope they learn that from us. As far as programming the robots, they are definitely better than us. It’s not even close!” says Bowman.

The Robot Fun Run Challenge is good practice for the students in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. They will also have a chance to compete against each other during the annual LEGO robotics tournament in the fall.

The winner of Friday’s competition took home a bright yellow trophy made out of LEGOs.

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