Young Students Compete in Robotics Qualifier Challenge


Young Students Compete in Robotics Qualifier Challenge


Young Students Compete in Robotics Qualifier Challenge
Young Students Compete in Robotics Qualifier Challenge

What: Paso del Norte FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Qualifying Tournament
When: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25
Where: Memorial Gym at The University of Texas at El Paso

Local students in grades 7 – 12 will compete in an FTC Qualifying Tournament hosted by the College of Engineering's Robotics Program.

The FTC is a widely accessible robotics program designed to promote project-based learning and engage students' interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

"UTEP organizes robotic competitions to engage students in engineering and science to expose them to the engineering process and learn how technology can be used to solve different challenges," said Virgilio Gonzalez, Ph.D., clinical associate professor and the coordinator of the Robotics Program.

With the help of mentors, student teams use a combination of motors, controllers, wireless communications, gears and sensors to create and program a robot capable of operating in a specially-designed 12-foot by 12-foot arena to complete tasks within a limited time period.

This year's FTC contest theme is "Block Party!" The robots' tasks will include trying to score points by placing plastic blocks in pendulum goals, raising team flags up a flagpole, and raising themselves off the ground using a pull-up bar.

Gonzalez said, "In addition to the robot, students need to do research on given subjects, justify their designs and present their proposals to judges. Finally the event emphasizes collaboration and sportsmanship. Teams get awards for helping other teams and engaging in their community."

The highest scoring teams will win and advance to the regional championship tournament in Lubbock, Texas. Last year's winners include teams from Harmony Science Academy, Montwood High School and Alamogordo High School.

Gabby Gandara, the co-coordinator of the event, added, "I encourage everyone to get involved at least once as a participant or volunteer to get a taste of FIRST Robotics. It'll be the hardest fun you'll ever have."

The event is free and open to the public.

An estimated 30,000 students on 3,000 teams around the world will participate in the 2013-14 FTC season.