Students Prepare for State Robotics Tournament

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

MOUNT VERNON, Iowa – Robots could be the key to a successful future for some high school students in Mount Vernon.

A team of nearly twenty students is stepping up their technological and engineering skills ahead of a state-wide robotics tournament or FIRST Tech Championship. The Robotics Club just qualified on Nov. 3, which means they'll compete again in a couple of months against other robotics clubs from across the state.

"We competed in their qualifying tournament there and we ended up winning so now we're going to the state tournament in Iowa City," Robotics Club Member Paul Chihak said.

Group members program and build each robot that is used in the competition. They put to use math, engineering and computer programming skills.

"We've logged tons of hours," Chihak said.

Students control the machines during a match using a remote control. The goal is to get the highest number of points by using the robot to put small rings on posts that vary in size.

"They learn a lot. This is all about engineering principals for some of the kids and for others it's marketing, for others it's about teaching the next generation about how to do this," Club Engineering Mentor Gary Scott said.

Governor Terry Branstad has made STEM education a priority in Iowa schools. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. This robotics program has been recognized as a STEM program that helps students develop skills needed later in life.

"Many of them already have an interest in engineering, but I think some of them find out what it's all about, what it's like," Robotics Club Coach Richard Scearce said. "A lot of businesses and a lot of people are trying to get more kids involved in science and technology and engineering and math. I think this lets kids know how exciting can be and this game format really makes it
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