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BotsIQ preliminaries draw hundreds

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier
Andrew Davidovich, 15, and Jared McCargo, 17, of Southmoreland work hard on Friday to get their robot running for the BotsIQ competition.

Showing off their ingenuity and creativity, hundreds of high school students from across Southwestern Pennsylvania are competing in the BotsIQ competition preliminaries being held this weekend at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood.

More than 50 teams from 40 schools participated, in which students build their own robots that are then pitted against other robots from different teams.

“This is a really exciting event,” BotsIQ volunteer organizer Terri Campbell said. “It's a fun, hands-on event that teaches the students about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) while also giving them the opportunity to actually look into career paths related to these fields.”

The event is in its eighth year and has grown immensely in both participation and skill level, Campbell said.

“The first year we only had six teams,” Campbell said, adding that the robots were simple and slower. “After that first year, they started to do more research and watch other competitions to see what they could do.”

The students are required to design a robot, write down and explain its wiring and its functions, build the robot, then be able to bring it to the competition to try its durability against others.

The robots can be of any design, must not exceed 15 pounds, and must be functional to compete.

“Ours was working great yesterday,” Southmoreland High School student Andrew Davidovich, 15, said of the team's robot,“Night Crawler,” which was unable to compete Friday because it wasn't operating.

The second team from Southmoreland, with their robot “B.A.R,” was able to compete in the first round but had to forfeit the second round.

The weekend competition wasn't for any prizes, but a seeding opportunity for the finals, which will be held April 19 at California University of Pennsylvania.

“There will not be any winners or losers this weekend,” Campbell said. “They will only see how they will be seeded for the event in April.”

Schools selected their teams in different manners. Some brought gifted students. Others brought students from classes that focus on technology.

“We have a class for this,” Southmoreland faculty member Christopher Pollard said of the BotsIQ class the district now offers; 16 students attend. “Last year we competed as a club. This year it's a class.”

In addition to offering students the ability to look into the areas of STEM, BotsIQ is a way for students in interact with others while having fun.

“I do this because it's really fun,” Davidovich said.

The event is sponsored by numerous businesses and organizations. Each team is paired with at least one business.

“We can't say enough about how great the people at Penn State Tool and Die have been to us,” Southmoreland High School student Bobby Skowronek said of his team's sponsor. “They have been really great to work with on this project.”

Even the teams who did not compete over the weekend will still be eligible to compete in the April finals.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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