Most young children love robots, and FIRST (for inspiration and recognition in science and technology) Robotics strives to maintain that interest into high school. Robotics isn’t merely about building a cool robot, but, according to Debbie May (Beford Robotics Coordinator and math teacher), “Robotics is providing the kids the real life experience of a work world. They’re given a big problem, a short window of time to solve that problem, and they don’t know what their competitor is going to do, so they have to address that problem as well…. Our kids are desired by both colleges and businesses because of their ability to communicate and solve problems.”
This year’s robotics challenge is the “aerial assist.” A playing field is divided into three sections, with six robots on the field at a time and three robots to a team. Schools do not know who their teammates will be until the morning of the match, so they have a limited amount of time to strategize. The robots then have to move an exercise ball, about two feet in diameter, down the field, but to get the “assist,” each of the three robots has to move the ball into each zone. Teams receive extra points for throwing, kicking, and catching the ball. Bedford’s robot can effectively kick and throw the ball, and the team hopes to have the robot catching by the first match.
Besides the amazing feat of planning, designing, building, and wiring a functioning robot, Bedford Robotics also “spreads robotics to other schools and other kids.” Many of the high school students volunteer their time to coach junior level robotics (third graders), and “teach summer camp in order to earn money to pay for these younger kids.”
For those interested in watching the robots in action, Bedford is hosting a district robotics event April 3-5. All events are open to the public, free, and volunteer-driven.