It took several attempts for organizers to call to order Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ seventh annual STEM Robotics & Maker Challenge.
The music in the Virginia Beach Convention Center was loud, and the more than 1,200 student participants were busy setting up work stations, making last-minute technical adjustments, affixing flags and, well, dancing.
That’s right, dancing.
They would have all day to showcase their robots’ skills. It was time for the students to show off their dancing skills, taking turns in the middle of a circle that spontaneously formed near the main stage.
The official ribbon cutting by Superintendent Aaron Spence and division administrators had yet to open the STEM Robotics & Maker Challenge, but the celebration was already well underway.
The event held June 12 was the culmination of a yearlong Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative that engages students in grades K-12 in afterschool STEM robotics activities.
Joining the more than 200 elementary, middle and high school student teams were hundreds of adult advisers, volunteers and judges. Also on-site to participate in the fun were representatives from the event’s “Sustaining Partners” – STIHL, CONCOA, SAIC and ALCOA – and other event sponsors such as the American Society of Naval Engineering, From One Hand to Another, Virginia Beach Schools Federal Credit Union, Virginia Beach Economic Development, Opportunity Inc. and DJ Precise.
“We know that there is a critical need for a skilled, professional STEM workforce, and it is thrilling to see so many of our students engaged in instruction and activities that strengthen their skills and open their eyes to potential STEM-related careers,” said Spence. “This citywide event provides yet another opportunity for our students to challenge themselves and apply what they’ve learned, and I am grateful to staff and volunteers who have supported their work all year.”
This year’s STEM Robotics challenge, “Baxter on the Boardwalk,” featured the board game Monopoly and Baxter the Robot, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) robot the division purchased in 2014 as a STEM teaching and research tool. Students had to control robots they made and place miniature Baxters in select spaces on a Monopoly-style board in five minutes or less. Teams earned points for the successful completion of various placements.
The Maker Challenge was added to this year’s competition and featured students’ 3-D printing and entrepreneurship skills. Student finalists from the division’s Maker Expo in February presented their original 3-D printed products and discussed their business plans with judges. Next year, a Cybersecurity Challenge will be a new component at the annual event.
All participants chronicled their process using an e-portfolio to showcase their learned skills and research, and the following awards were presented for the top robots, 3-D printing products and e-portfolios at the elementary, middle and high school levels:
STEM Robotics Challenge Awards
Grand Champion (Level 1): Superheroes, Kempsville Middle School
Grand Champion Runner Up (Level 1): Cyber Blue, Landstown High School
Grand Champion (Level 2) – Team Level 2, Cox High School
Grand Champion Runner Up (Level 2) – Iron Olympians, Princess Anne High School
1st Place: Big Ideas, Thoroughgood
Runner Up: BaxBots, Ocean Lakes
1st Place: Superheroes, Kempsville
Runner Up: Trial and Error, Brandon
1st Place: Cyber Blue, Landstown
Runner Up: Ro Ro Ro Your Bot, Landstown
Maker Challenge Awards
1st Place: White Oaks
2nd Place: Thoroughgood
3rd Place: Kemps Landing/Old Donation
1st Place: Kemps Landing/Old Donation
2nd Place: Bayside
3rd Place: Great Neck
1st Place: Ocean Lakes
2nd Place: Technical and Career Education Center
3rd Place: Green Run Collegiate
1st Place: Big Ideas, Thoroughgood
2nd Place: Team Purple, Thoroughgood
3rd Place: Mythical Machines, Landstown
1st Place: Lightning Blue, Brandon
2nd Place: Mechanical Megaldons, Salem
3rd Place: BRAVES, Kempsville
High School (Level 1):
1st Place: Team STEAM, Advanced Technology Center
2nd Place: TSJONS, Advanced Technology Center
3rd Place: Cyber Blue, Landstown
High School (Level 2):
1st Place: Iron Olympians, Princess Anne
2nd Place: B&B Inc, Advanced Technology Center
3rd Place: Watt Squad, Advanced Technology Center
To read more about the school division’s STEM initiatives, visit vbschools.com.