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Competing for the Future: Developing a Life-Long Interest in STEM, Part I

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LiveCareer Quote
A few weeks ago, we published an infographic that illustrates the STEM Problem: there are more and more STEM jobs out there, but fewer and fewer candidates who are qualified to fill them. But, taking a look at the job market shows that employers need more than employees who simply understand science, technology, engineering or math.

Degrees and credentials are important, but the development of soft skills—skills that are more social than technical—are a crucial part of fostering a dynamic workforce and are always in high demand.”[i]

Today’s job market needs graduates who excel in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), and who also excel in the areas of teamwork, communication, creative problem solving, project management, critical thinking, and leadership. Research shows[ii] that competitions are a fun and exciting way to combine STEM with the development of 21st century skills.

This is part one of a series of articles that will show how easy it is to host a competition at your school, in your classroom, in a club, or at your home! Over the next few weeks we will continue this article and suggest teacher-tested strategies that enable you to teach many of the competencies that you can teach via competitions and project based learning via a Virtual Competition.

Why Competitions?

IMG_7431Competitions are generally multifaceted and require participants to engage in a range of activities. Well designed competitions address academically challenging concepts and teach important 21st century skills like: research, ideation, prototype development, design reviews, presentations, and iterative design-develop- and test cycles, just to name a few. Competitions involve contextualized activities that enable kids to develop the soft skills that employers crave: leadership, written and oral communication, the ability to think on your feet, and the ability to present and defend your ideas. In competitions, these skills are nurtured in a fun and easy-to-understand manner, helping students develop competencies that they’ll use in college and future careers.

IMG_7441Research shows that after participating in competitions, students are more likely to take on additional STEM classes in high school and pursue STEM degrees and careers. Teachers also report that students who have participated in competitions are more comfortable using computers than students who haven’t participated in competitions.[iii] Research also shows that competitions increase students’ professional skills, like understanding the value of teamwork and the role of “gracious professionalism.” Competitions also increase students’ self-confidence, with 89% of students reporting more self-confidence after being part of a competition team.[iv] These are just a few of the reasons we’re big supporters of competitions and competition teams.

Compete Virtually, From Anywhere

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Our goal is to support education with multiple toolsets that engage and teach at the highest level. But, we know it can be difficult to find the requisite resources to start a team and travel to competitions, especially with the very real resource constraints so many schools face. That’s why we’ve partnered with the REC Foundation to create the VEX and VEX IQ Programming Skills Challenge for Robot Virtual Worlds!

Robomatter, VEX Robotics, and the REC Foundation are really excited about presenting low cost, high quality virtual competitions that enable students to test their problem solving and programming skills in the VEX Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Bank Shot Robot Virtual World Competitions. And, not only do these virtual competitions provide a great learning experience, you could qualify for the 2016 VEX Worlds!

This Year’s Games

3Both games simulate the single-player Robot Skills and Programming Skills modes of the physical Nothing But Net and Bank Shot competitions.

In the Nothing But Net Robot Virtual Worlds Competition, your goal is to program your virtual robot to put as many balls as you can in the Low and High goals, and by Elevating Robots in your Climbing Zone.

F3or the Bank Shot Robot Virtual Worlds Competition, your robot will need to pick up balls and make some tricky bank shots! The object of Bank Shot is to attain the highest score by Emptying Cutouts, Scoring Balls into the Scoring Zone and Goals, and by Parking Robots on the Ramp. There are a total of forty-four Balls available as Scoring Objects in the game, with one Scoring Zone, one Goal, and one Ramp on the field.

Winners Qualify for VEX Worlds!

The winners of the Robomatter sponsored VEX Nothing But Net and VEX IQ Bank Shot Robot Virtual World competition will receive an invitation to the VEX World Championship April 20-23, 2016 at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville Kentucky!

Important Deadlines:

  • Submissions for both contests are due by March 1, 2016.
  • Winners will be announced on March 11, 2016!

To learn more about the VEX and VEX IQ Programming Skills Challenge for Robot Virtual Worlds, visit www.robotc.net/recf and visit www.cs2n.org/competitions to sign up!

Announcing the 2016 REC Foundation & Robomatter Scholarship!

REC Foundation Robomatter Banner
Because Robomatter is so committed to advancing STEM education, we’re pleased to partner with the REC Foundation to offer one $5,000 scholarship to a high school junior or senior who will be pursuing a STEM degree in college! The deadline to apply is January 31, 2016. Learn more about the The 2016 REC Foundation & Robomatter Scholarship by reading our blog (link to blog) or visiting the REC Foundation website.

 

 

[i] “Careers | Top 10 Soft Skills in Demand | LiveCareer.” LiveCareer. LiveCareer.com, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015. <http://www.livecareer.com/career-tips/career-advice/soft-skills-in-demand>.

[ii] Robotics Competition: Providing Structure, Flexibility, and an Extensive Learning Experience – http://users.csc.calpoly.edu/~jseng/papers/grimes_seng.pdf

[iii] The Impact of Participation in VEX Robotics Competition on middle and high school students – http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDcQFjADahUKEwj9nJmlkq7IAhXE_R4KHRpxC3Q&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.asee.org%2Fpublic%2Fconferences%2F8%2Fpapers%2F2994%2Fdownload&usg=AFQjCNGeCaxBzSsxmeyN7jMVLlaOFwFIXA&bvm=bv.104317490,d.dmo

[iv] More that Robots: An evaluation of the FIRST Robotics Competition – http://www.usfirst.org/uploadedFiles/Who/Impact/Brandeis_Studies/FRC_eval_finalrpt.pdf

 

Announcing the 2016 REC Foundation & Robomatter Scholarship!

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The REC Foundation and Robomatter are pleased to partner to offer one (1) $5,000 non-renewable scholarship to one (1) high school junior or senior intent on pursuing a degree related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics in college. The award will be presented at the VEX Robotics Competition World Championship in April 2016, but the student does not need to be present to win.

Eligible students must have participated in the VEX Robotics Competition and submit a 500-word essay explaining how their participation in both the VEX Robotics Competition and the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy Sponsored Robot Virtual World Competition enabled them to develop a high competency and appreciation for programming. In addition, students must indicate how programing skills and use of ROBOTC enhanced their understanding of robotics or aided their participation in the VEX Robotics Competition.

Entries must include:

  • Student’s name
  • School name
  • Grade level (i.e. Junior or Senior at time of application)
  • Team number
  • Document/statement from team mentor verifying student’s participation/role in the challenge
  • Student’s email, mailing address with city, and state and should be submitted to scholarships@roboticseducation.org

Deadline: January 31, 2016

Click here to apply.

Written by LeeAnn Baronett

October 12th, 2015 at 11:20 am

2015 Robomatter Scholarship Winner

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The Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation isRobomatter-Logo pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 Robomatter Scholarship, valued at $5,000 which invited students participating in the VEX Robotics Competition to submit an essay explaining how their participation in both the VEX Robotics Competition and the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy sponsored Robot Virtual World Competition enhanced their understanding and application of programming. In addition, students were encouraged to share how programing skills and use of ROBOTC improved their robotics experience.

“It’s rewarding to hear that students, like Max Farr, gain valuable hands-on experience in programming through participation in the VEX Robotics Competition,” said Jason Morrella, president of the REC Foundation. “The REC Foundation is extremely grateful to partners, such as Robomatter, who make it possible for students to secure the resources they need to continue their education and pursue a post-secondary degree in STEM.”

The winner of the 2015 Robomatter Scholarship is: Max Farr, VEX Robotics Competition Team 21, from CHAMPS Charter High School in California.

“As our team’s driver and programmer, I rely on ROBOTC’s easy and approachable format to enable me to quickly plan, set up and execute commands that improve our game strategy and overall execution,” said Max Farr. “I also rely on Robomatter’s Virtual World at the beginning of every season to better understand the game and quickly begin brainstorming robot designs.”

The 2015/2016 season is now open with VEX IQ Challenge Bank Shot and VEX Robotics Competition Nothing But Net. Both games are available through the Robot Virtual Worlds too!

For more information about the REC Foundation and the scholarship program, please visit www.RoboticsEducation.org. And for more information about Robomatter, please visit www.Robomatter.com.

Written by Cara Friez

June 4th, 2015 at 5:30 am

2014 REC Foundation and Robomatter Scholarship Winner!

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Scholarship WinnerThe 2014 REC Foundation and Robomatter Scholarship Winner is Cameron Akker of Redmond, Washington!

Cameron Akker is the 2014 REC Foundation-RoboMatter scholarship recipient and will receive $5,000 intended for students pursuing a degree related to science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Cameron attended Redmond High School and is a member of VEX Team 575, Exothermic Robotics of Redmond, Washington. He will attend Harvard University this fall. Cameron, on far right, is pictured here with his Exothermic Robotics teammates.

Cameron started programming for the first time in 9th grade and pursued a variety of summer programs to improve his skills. He began by learning ROBOTC, picked up Java at a Stanford University program, and took a course focused on robotics programming using language C at the University of Pennsylvania. Last summer, Cameron put his knowledge to use and got together with friends he met through robotics to start a mobile app company. Working straight through the summer, the group was able to create and release two Android games on Google Play.

When it comes to programming robots Cameron says, “Virtual worlds is an excellent interface through which I’ve been able to program without the rough, troublesome physicality of actual robots. It’s helpful to be able to test programs without the possibility of one mistake leading to a physical robot’s untimely demise. The Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy sponsored Robot Virtual Worlds Competition provides an exciting chance to experience the thrill of robotics programming without needing to attend a physical robotics competition.”

“Understanding programming has also aided the way I build robots to participate in the VEX Robotics Competition,” continues Cameron. “Instead of building an entire robot and then programming it, I program the robot at every step of the build process. As a result, I don’t have to wait until the end of the build process to find broken motors or faulty engineering, but can rather find them along the way. Understanding programming has also allowed me to better set up sensors on a competition robot. Instead of putting sensors on the robot and later figuring out how to incorporate them, I only add sensors when there is a clear need in programming for them.”
The REC Foundation and RoboMatter congratulate Cameron Akker on his well-deserved scholarship award and wish him much success in his college career at Harvard University.

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Written by Cara Friez

September 15th, 2014 at 7:15 am

2014 REC Foundation and Robomatter Scholarship

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REC Foundation Scholarship REC Foundation and Robomatter are pleased to partner to offer one (1) $5,000 non-renewable scholarship to one (1) high school junior or senior intent on pursuing a degree related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics in college. The award will be presented at the VEX Robotics Competition World Championship in April 2014, but the student does not need to be present to win.

Eligible students must have participated in the VEX Robotics Competition and submit a 500-word essay explaining how their participation in both the VEX Robotics Competition and the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy Sponsored Robot Virtual World Competition enabled them to develop a high competency and appreciation for programming. In addition, students must indicate how programing skills and use of ROBOTC enhanced their understanding of robotics or aided their participation in the VEX Robotics Competition.

Click this link to see the scholarship requirements: Robomatter Scholarship

Fill out this form and follow the instructions on it to apply: Robomatter Scholarship Application form

Entries must include:

  • Student’s name
  • School name
  • Specify grade level (i.e. Junior or Senior at time of application)
  • Team number
  • Document/statement from team mentor verifying student’s participation/role in the challenge
  • Student’s email, mailing address with city, and state

All entries must be submitted to scholarships@roboticseducation.org.

Deadline: February 15, 2014!!