TMCNet:  Akron students build soccer robots

[March 12, 2012]

Akron students build soccer robots

Mar 12, 2012 (The Akron Beacon Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Fourteen-year-old Keyana Thomas wasn't sure what to think when she was told that soccer would be part of the second annual Akron Public Schools Middle School Robotics Competition.

That aspect of Sunday's event at Firestone High School was sprung on students at the last minute.

"I thought they were going to make us play soccer," Keyana, an eighth-grader at Roswell Kent, said with a chuckle.

Not exactly.

But their robots did.

The 50 students who gathered in the Firestone gym had to build a robot that would play soccer against their peers' creations. High school students, University of Akron students and even professional engineers were on hand to mentor them.

Each team was given the same set of gears, motors, wheels, pieces of cardboard and other parts and told to design a robot that could move pingpong balls across a makeshift soccer field.

The robot that scored the most points won.

"It's fun to design something and then see it work," said Graham Sell, 13, an eighth-grader at Miller South.

"Or see it fail," interjected Gavin VanWinkle-Bright, 12, another eighth-grader at Miller South.

The students described the program as challenging, cool, difficult, educational and a good way to get students from different schools together.

"It's a very fun and cool way to learn about robotics and how technology today is affecting our lives," said Calvin Ratsavong, 14, an eighth-grader at Jennings.

Organizer and host Dan Spak, the Project Lead the Way pre-engineering instructor at Firestone, said the program focuses on team building, problem solving and critical thought.

"It is the essence of project-based, problem-based education," he said. "It's the cornerstone of ... science, technology, engineering and math." The event was sponsored by Akron Public Schools Career Education.

The winning team was from the National Inventors Hall of Fame School: Selena Turner, Kayla Esterle and James Cross. The second- and third-place teams were, respectively: Thomas, Kayla Roberson, Ariyonniyia Cobbin and Allison Truong from Roswell Kent; and Connor Steele, Alex Michael, Sell and VanWinkle-Bright from Miller South.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or

___ (c)2012 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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