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Link to an item in the news you’ve been thinking about lately, and write the op-ed you’d like to see published on the topic.

Reference the Vienna Connection article on Robotics Competition.


What are all these students cheering for at the George Mason Patriot Center? Basketball would be the first thought, but no, this is much more cerebral, and just as competitive. It’s the annual Greater DC Regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.

Having taught Lego Mindstorms Robotics with middle school students, I latched on to this story, for teaching robotics in schools and summer camps is getting much more popular, and it’s easy to see why. Note I said “with” students, not “to” students. Obviously the teacher must present the tools so that students can use them, but beyond that, it is the chidren’s exploration and experimentation that teaches them — and that’s a real learning experience.

Says computer teacher Oliver Small, “The robotics is really just a small portion of what this is all about. It’s all about safety, outreach, visibility, engineering, and teamwork. It’s a kid-driven event that allows them to decide what they want to learn, and find a way to learn it.”

I won’t repeat the article, but these kids have only 6 weeks to create their robots with identical kits given to them, and then find “add-ons” to enable to robots to carry out set tasks. Sponsors have been helpful in supplying resources, but it’s the kids who have to decide what they need and what and how best to achieve the goals.

Forty eight teams competed, and one of the teams who will go on to national competition is from the high school my kids attended. I’m very proud of their efforts and know how much effort and enthusiasm they must have expended to do so well. Kudos too, to the sponsoring teachers in all the schools. It takes a tremendous dedication and time to undertake such projects with bright, enthusiastic students.