Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of extracurricular STEM clubs and competitions. They build interest, knowledge, skills and add an exciting element to STEM study. This is especially true when it comes to robotics where STEM becomes a spectator sport, something that can’t be said for math team.
VEX Robotics Competitions
I started a VEX Robotics team five years ago at the urging of my son. Thanks to a grant, I was able to start a team for free. You might be able to start a team at no or low cost, too.
Happily, our high school started a VEX team my son’s freshman year. So his scrappy team was able to take it up a notch. Five years after that painfully awkward first competition the boys are still together. They’ve learned and grown a lot since working with the guidance of actual engineering teachers (as opposed to say, me) and having access to a greater variety of physical resources, thanks to the support of our school district.
But I still vividly recall that shrinking feeling from the first meet. The boys walked in with a basic bot and were overwhelmed by the complex engineering marvels that surrounded them. I shot platitudes at them: We’re here to learn. This is only our first event. Everyone has to start somewhere. But even I felt smaller than my five-foot frame.
My son and his teammates spend hours each week building and perfecting their robot. Now, as high school juniors, they are the ones producing engineering marvels. At last weekend’s competition they walked away with the big prize: they were tournament champs and earned bids to state and the US nationals.
VEX Robotics Starstruck
Starstruck is this year’s VEX competition game. Indulge a proud mama and take a look his team’s robot in action; it’s the one on the right with the scissor lift. Watch as it lifts the large, soft square objects and the hard plastic “stars” and drops them onto their opponent’s side of the playing field, leading their alliance to victory.
A successful robotics team requires building and programming skills. But true success relies on soft skills, like the ability to communicate. I’m obviously a big fan of VEX. What are your favorite STEM clubs or competitions?