Virginia Beach City Public Schools' Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative has involved students and mentors from 22 elementary, middle and high schools and technical centers in rigorous STEM activities throughout the year. The culmination of their study has been to build robots. Their hard work will be put to the test when students gather at the Virginia Beach Convention Center on Friday, June 1 from 11:00 am - 4:00 pm to compete in the 2012 STEM Robotics Challenge. Educators from across the Hampton Roads region are being invited to attend this event with the hopes of expanding the program next year to a regional competition.
The almost 400 students from Virginia Beach schools participating in the STEM Robotics Challenge will include Christopher Farms, Landstown, Linkhorn Park, Lynnhaven, Princess Anne, Strawbridge, and Thoroughgood Elementary Schools; Kempsville, Plaza and Virginia Beach Middle Schools; and Bayside, Cox, Green Run, Kellam, Kempsville, Landstown, Ocean Lakes, Princess Anne, Salem, and Tallwood High Schools as well as the Advanced Technology Academy and the Technical and Career Education Center. Two teams from Norfolk Academy will also compete.
The elementary student teams are the newest addition to this year's STEM Robotics Challenge which focuses on collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking while implementing science, technology, engineering and mathematic skills. According to the Office of Technical and Career Education, STEM competencies require that students from kindergarten through 12th-grade investigate the physics of motion and energy transformation; learn basic computer programming, motor control, electronics and feedback systems; create a microcontroller for robotics manipulation and understand "Mechatronics," the relationship between electronic and mechanical systems; demonstrate knowledge and application of measurement, ratios and proportions and conversions of units, applied geometry and probability through computational thinking.
At the STEM Robotics Challenge, there are two levels of complexity. Student teams will be assigned to one of two levels to compete in challenges using their robots to perform specific tasks. On Level One, for instance, students will guide their robots to remove stacks of boxes from a ramp to designated scoring zones while defense robots fend off their competitors. Proper placement of the boxes to the appointed zones will earn students points from judges.
Advanced robotics students, mostly representing high schools, will test their robots in the more challenging Level 2 competition. In that category, pupils will guide their robots through a stimulated activity based on the crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. As you will recall, the plant suffered massive nuclear meltdowns and structural damage following an earthquake and tsunami last year in March. Students will use their robots to complete tougher Level 2 demands such as successfully removing "nuclear rods" from a reactor, driving the rods to a safe container and then removing any plant damage or rescuing "injured employees" from the "nuclear power plant".
In addition to measuring students' manipulation of robots on both levels of competition, judges will also score students on their portfolios containing materials such as photographs and written reports that document the various stages of the months-long robotic projects.
"Virginia Beach City Public Schools is very excited to present the STEM Robotics Challenge that will showcase our students' dedication and perseverance in meeting the demands of constructing robots by mixing rigorous STEM skills with their creativity," said Dr. Patrick Konopnicki, director of the Office of Technical and Career Education. "These students' successful involvement in STEM Robotics Challenge is indicative of the school division's readiness to integrate STEM components throughout our network of curriculum opportunities to prepare students for 21st century learning."
The STEM Robotics Challenge is free and open to the public. "We are hopeful that parents and members of the community will take the time to see what these students have accomplished. We are particularly hopeful that other educators across the region will attend so we can begin building that momentum for a regional competition in the near future," said Konopnicki.
The STEM Robotics Challenge is being sponsored through the generosity of Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Partners in Education: Opportunity Inc., STIHL, BB & G, Inc., and Tri-Tronics Ltd.
For more information, please call Karen Boone at the Advanced Technology Center at 757.648.6180 or email [email protected].