Many do not realize the number of volunteers required to organize and host a robotics competition. This semester Dr. Lucretia Fraga’s preservice teachers (elementary and secondary) enrolled in the Instructional Technology course completed a service-learning project at the Alamo Region FIRST Tech Challenge Regional Championship. Her students volunteered in a variety of roles from volunteer check-in, to judge’s assistants as well as field setters. Dr. Fraga also served as a referee for the two-day event.
The competition has teams build a robot and program it to complete a variety of task on a 10’x10’ field. Two teams compete in an alliance against another alliance to score points. Teams score points by moving their robots to shoot balls into a basket, turning on beacon lights, and placing a large ball on top of a 4-foot high basket.
UIW students interviewed student participants and volunteers about their interest and support for robotics. In addition to volunteering, students were able to connect their experiences to Seymour Papert’s theory of constructionism. Papert believed that students’ ability to physically manipulate code and objects develops higher order thinking and problem solving skills. At the MIT media lab, Papert developed the first computer programming software for students called Logo. The software program used in the FTC robotics competition is similar to the one Papert developed.
The event was held at Veteran’s Memorial High School in the Judson ISD and brought over 70 teams from all over the south Texas. Teams compete during the school year in preliminary competitions to earn the privilege to compete at the championship. The top 13 teams then move on to the FIRST Tech Challenge South Super Regional in Athens, Georgia in March 2017.