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Elementary, middle school students partake in SCS robotics competition

West Stanly Middle School turned into mission control Saturday.

Fourth and fifth graders from Aquadale, Richfield, Endy, Locust, Central, Badin, Norwood and Millingport elementary schools, Oakboro Choice STEM and West Stanly and North Stanly middle schools participated in the 3rd annual Stanly County Schools robotics competition.

The competition was part of a national organization called First Lego League, which allows students and their coaches to design and build robots to accomplish different tasks.

The student teams were required to build and program an autonomous (no remote control) robot that can perform theme-based “mission” tasks on a table-top playing field. The missions require the robot to navigate, capture, transport or deliver objects. The more missions completed, the more points teams earn. Fifteen tasks were in Saturday’s competition.

The students figured out which tasks they wanted to perform and then programmed their robot to do the tasks.

“One of the biggest things the students learn is problem-solving,” said Oakboro STEM coach Jennifer Snyder.

She said the students also learn perseverance.

When designing their robots, when it gets difficult, “they can’t just throw their hands in the air and say, ‘I give up,’ ” Snyder said.

Oakboro Choice STEM School also had four First Lego League Jr. teams, comprised of first- through fourth-grade students. But these four teams didn’t compete in the competition.

“These students are our future engineers,” Central Elementary principal Melissa Smith said.

Students learned to build robots through watching First Lego League and YouTube videos.

The competition had three rounds and judges graded the teams based on their robot’s ability to complete the tasks in a timed setting.

The students do everything — they design and build the robots from Legos, they program the robots to complete the tasks. The coaches facilitate the groups and make sure everything runs smoothly.

“I like programming the robot,” said Bethany Berry, 11, of West Stanly Middle School. “The programming makes the robot come to life.”

“I liked working together with my team and it’s cool seeing the robots move,” said Jane Lee, 10, of Norwood Elementary.

“The most important thing is for the students to work as a team,” said Danny Poplin, SCS director of curriculum and instruction.

At the end of the event, awards were presented.

First place went to Central Elementary, while Norwood and Locust took home second and third place respectively.

Endy won the teamwork award while Aquadale won for best T-shirt design.

“The students are not just learning the digital age,” West Stanly Middle School coach Manny Duarte said. “They’re living the digital age.”

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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