SAN ANTONIO – Approximately 700 students and 150 mentors were on hand at Sunset Station in San Antonio Jan. 3, 2014, to hear Maj. Gen. Todd Semonite proclaim the 2014 VEX All-American Robotics competitors as the generation that “is going to carry on to set the path for the future.”
The competition, sponsored by the U.S. Army, is geared toward attracting the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. These advanced skills are critical to ensuring the Army will continue to remain relevant in the race for innovation and global competitiveness.
High school and middle school students comprised the more than 50 teams from 18 schools across central and eastern Texas for this critical part of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics program.
VEX robotics competitions like this one encourage the integration of robotics in the classroom and engage students in all facets of the STEM education. With the competitive edge added to curriculum, learning STEM concepts and life skills becomes fun.
Systems Automation Engineer Col. Sherwood Baker of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, was on hand to “talk shop” with some of the competitors between rounds.
“This is good because we can see upcoming students that want to get involved in engineering, science, robotics, the kind of things we need in the Army,” he said.
With an increase in reconnaissance robots used to pick up IEDs and keep soldiers further from harm’s way, Baker pointed out the relevance of this competition.
“These are the kind of robots – here at the competition – that are able to pick up balls, and move them and do things like that,” he said.
The U.S. Army received the Partner of the Year award for their participation in the event and McCallum High School student Dexter Becklund was enthusiastic about the Army role.
“I think it’s really cool. … Just in general this competition is probably one of the best one’s we go to just in terms of its organization and how well it’s run,” Becklund said.
Alex Lee, a junior at Engineering & Technologies Academy – Roosevelt High School in San Antonio, was also supportive of the Army involvement.
“I think it is a great opportunity for the nation to get involved in the education of children. ... With the government sponsoring events like this, it really helps show the community that the nation wants to improve our education and improve the nation itself," Lee said.
At the end of a tough day of competition, the blue alliance of DiscoBots – Zeta from Houston, T-VEX from Arlington, and Pasadena ISD Robotics from Pasadena emerged victorious with a final score of 74-39 over the red alliance of Floyd II and TorBots from Galveston, and ausTIN CANs from Austin.