BELTON — FIRST in Texas, a three-day robotics competition for middle and high school students, ended Sunday at the Bell County Expo Center.
Of 72 teams that entered the UIL event, 15 will advance to the world champion robotics competition next month in Houston, said Jason Arms, executive director. They will be joined by 30,000 children from 100 countries.
Sunday’s final matches came down to 12 teams. Winning Alliance, a combination of two teams, won the main robotics championship.
The basic robot competition has been compared to engineer Dean Kamen’s battle bot, but these robots do not attack each other. On a small, square field of play, the metallic, rectangular robots jostle about and slide cones onto short poles.
“The whole purpose of this game is to get kids to think about the use of energy — all kinds of energy,” Arms said.
The competition also has a category for testing the students’ technical knowledge, he said.
For example, he said, they have to do research in mechanical engineering and solve a problem. They are also judged on presentation and their marketing knowledge.
“Robotics is a tool to inspire kids to pursue a STEM career,” he said.
The state competition will be back at the same time next year, he said.
“We want to thank Bell County for working with us as a partner,” he said. “We have no teams in Belton. We have over 800 teams in this program and we would love for teams in Belton to join us.”
Although not an engineer, Ginger Weaver of Universal City worked as a judge and referee at the competition. Her children got involved in robotics six years ago, she said, and she’s been involved in it ever since.
“There’s nothing like this, I don’t think, anywhere,” she said. “If you have an opportunity to get your kids in a program in this area, I encourage you to get in it or start one.”
Krish Agarwal, Skanda Rebbapragada and Arav Rawat, all of the Dallas area, were on the Winning Alliance team. Arav said that Skanda did 90% of the building of their robot.
Late Friday night, Arav said, a power switch on their robot blew up. Another team, Spicy Catsup of San Antonio, gave them replacement parts. They were up until 2 a.m. fixing their robot. Fortunately, they did not play the game against that team, he said.
Cameron Demille of Plano, a 10-year veteran of robotics competitions, worked this event as a field technical advisor. Now a software engineer, he said he is able to help the contestants with their programming.
“It inspires me in my work to see kids in a similar situation to what I was in high school,” he said. “All of these kids here are going to move on and do great things. They are going to be the leaders in technology, just because they are in this program.”