High School Robotics Contests Growing in Popular - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

High School Robotics Contests Growing in Popular

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By Alex Schuman

aschuman@myabc5.com

@alexschuman

Des Moines' North High School made a little history to help shape a better future.

"To me, this is the sport of the future," said Bryan Butcher, who coaches two teams from North High School's robotics program. 

Their hosting the most students to take part in a qualifier for a robotics competition in state history. 

"They always wonder if it's Battle Bots," said Butcher.  "'Oh, they get in there and tear each other apart?' And you always have to explain that's not exactly what we do."

In each competition, students design robots to achieve simple, repetitive goals.  For instance at Saturday's competition, students were asked to program a robot to place as many rings as possible in the allowed time. 

"My favorite part is not the robots," said Rebecca Whitaker, a regional STEM manager.  "It's about seeing the kids inspire each other - how the volunteers inspire the kids."

Students learn math, science, programming and teamwork bringing them together to build a robot. 

"Students need to use all the muscles in their bodies," said Whitaker.  "Not just the physical muscles, but the brain as well."

The Governor's STEM Advisory Committee hopes more students join, which forces them to learn new technology, to build new skills - by having fun in an ever more popular new sport. 

"Four years ago when we got started there were 16 - 18 teams in Iowa.  There's a 135 now," said Butcher.  "We're expecting 250 next year.  It's just growing exponentially."

10 teams from Saturday's competition at North High move on to the state championship in February at the University of Iowa.

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