RRVEC Robotics tourney, March 10

Published 9:38 am Thursday, March 8, 2018

WELDON – Excitement is growing as the school superintendents from Warren, Northampton, Halifax, Hertford and Bertie counties and the Weldon City Schools along with their staff are making final preparations for the Roanoke River Valley Education Consortium (RRVEC) Ultineers 4th Invitational Robotics Tournament.

This year’s tournament will be the largest tournament to date and will include teams from all six school systems. Plans are being made at Halifax Community College (HCC) to host this year’s tournament where 22 teams and approximately 220 students will compete.

“The superintendents want to extend an invitation to business leaders, city and county officials and other interested people to attend Saturday March 10, 2018 from 1-4pm at HCC’s main campus.  The students are really excited to show off their talents,” said Joe Kronner of MUST-Innov8, Inc.

Local students from the Roanoke-Chowan area took part in a scrimmage held last month at Hertford County Middle School, using the event as practice for the RRVEC Robotics Tournament that is scheduled for March 10 on the campus of Halifax Community College. | Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

Teams of two-to-ten students are challenged to complete as many of the 14 possible robot missions as they can in 2 ½ minutes on a 4 foot by 8 foot table. The teams were given a robot brain and over 1,000 Lego pieces to use to design and build a custom robot to perform complex tasks. Then the teams use a laptop computer and special “drag and drop” software to program the robot.”

Dr. Ray Spain, Warren County Superintendent explained, “It is a very cool sport for the mind that is designed to sneak up on kids and use a robotics competition to cause them to want to learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The kids have so much fun that they have no idea how much they are learning.”

“Kids find robotics almost as addictive as video games.  The only difference is that robotics prepares them for exciting high paying careers. They acquire knowledge and skills that will be valuable no matter what they choose to do,” explained Dr. Eric Cunningham, Halifax County Superintendent.

Dr. Anitra Wells, Weldon City Schools Superintendent, said, “The teams spend the first 6 to 8 weeks designing, building and programing their robots. Then they begin to scrimmage against other teams. That is often an eye-opening experience when they see how other teams are taking creative approaches to completing the robot missions.  It is all about causing students to think outside-the-box to find more efficient ways to complete the robot missions and score more points.”

“While the teams are working on the robots, they are also working on a research project. They are given a theme for the season like Hydro Dynamics. The teams have to brainstorm to identify a problem or opportunity related to the theme. They have to research what has been done in that area and then develop their own creative solution to the problem. Each team, without their coach or team mentor, will present their research project to judges who are usually business executives and Community College Presidents,” Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter, Northampton County Schools Superintendent explained. “In addition teams are judged on their Robot Design Strategy and FIRST Lego League Core Values that focuses on how well they work as a team and being respectful of their teammates.”

“Teams need students with a variety of knowledge and skills in-order to be competitive in all areas.  That is why students do not have to know anything about robotics or be strong in science.  It is no different than most workplaces today…having a blend of talents and skills is important,” explained Dr. William Wright, Superintendent of Hertford County Schools.

Dr. Michael Elam, President of Halifax Community College, said, “We are excited to be hosting this year’s Tournament on Saturday March 10, 2018 on our main campus in Weldon. What excites me is that this program attracts kids from all backgrounds and demographics.  FIIRST Lego League Robotics Competition often attracts kids that have never had success with science and math in the classroom.  It can play an important role in changing attitudes and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.”