Teens from 23 different schools in the Chicagoland area — including Chicago public schools, private and suburban schools — are all competing in a robotics contest.
“I feel like I’m pretty competitive and it’s a perfect sport for me,” said Priyanshi Patel, a junior from Von Steuben Metropolitan High School.
Nearly 200 students were at the Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center on Saturday for the REC VEX robotics tournament.
“These are robots that are programmed to perform specific tasks to win the game, to maximize the score,” said Julio Mendez, coach of the Von Steuben robotics team.
Robots perform a variety of functions, ranging from grabbing different objects to lifting objects.
“My robot personally picks up two bump goals and then places them on the balancing platform,” Patel said.
These robots often take months to manufacture.
“Just a lot of trial and error, a lot of iteration, a lot of real engineering,” Mendez said.
Many students expressed satisfaction with their completed projects.
“I’m very proud that my robot is even working, that it can pick up and do what it’s made for. I’m very proud of that,” said Jamia Byrd, a sophomore at Bloom Trail High School.
Three winning teams will advance to the state competition later this month.
“Robotics made me want to get into mechanical engineering for sure,” Patel said.
Students learn not only technical skills, but also teamwork, perseverance, communication, which will help them prepare for college.
“I want to be an industrial designer. So there’s engineering, architecture, all that stuff. I feel like that’s helped me a lot,” Byrd said.
Mendez said it’s not just about STEM.
“And even if they don’t get into a college, the skills and the teamwork and the camaraderie that they build, the goal setting and the achievement of goals, it’s all so important for them to see what they are capable of,” said Méndez.
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