The ASU Mechanical Engineering Department arranges robotics competition for middle school students in EAST program
Delta Digital News Service
Friday, Dec. 1, 2023
By Avery Jones | Editor
On Friday, November 10, the ASU mechanical engineering department hosted a robotics competition for local middle school students. The event took place at Centennial Hall in the Student Union from 9:30 AM to 1 PM.
The competition was mostly for eighth grade students that are participating in their schools’ EAST program. EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology) is a national education model, first established in Arkansas, that fosters technology training, teamwork, problem solving, and service projects.
Nine teams from nearby schools were expected to show up, including Buffalo Island Central Junior High, Annie Camp Junior High, Jonesboro Visual and Performing Arts School, Highland Middle School, Marked Tree Elementary, and East Poinsett County High School.
The purpose of the event was to reach out to local schools, promote ASU, and foster a love of engineering, according to mechanical engineering student ambassador Morgan Diamond. It was completely arranged by mechanical engineering students and supported by the Kays Foundation.
“We want to reach out to the schools, tell them about Arkansas State University, but also foster hopefully a love for engineering and robotics, STEM careers,” Diamond said. “Getting them involved…in a design-oriented competition pretty early on is big for development…”
“So even if they don’t go here, they go somewhere else,” said Landon Perdue, another student ambassador. “We want to foster the next generation.”
The competition is usually held every year during fall. It was previously hosted at other local schools for several years, but they decided to have it on campus this year. They wanted for the event to be more accessible to other schools that are further away.
Every school attending is allowed two teams consisting of four students. Some chose to only bring one team. Altogether, they expected around thirty-five to forty students to show up. Teachers, family members, and friends were also allowed to attend for support.
Each of the teams is provided with a kit a couple of weeks before the competition that they can use to build a robot. At the competition, they have to use that robot to pick up blocks and navigate an obstacle course to drop the blocks in a basket.
“There are several schools that do not have a robotics program, they’re starting fresh, so we are most happy to help,” said Dr. Shivan Haran, the director and a professor of mechanical engineering overseeing the event. “We even told them…come by, we’ll even show your kids how to put this together…”
Whichever team deposits the most blocks wins the competition. Points are deducted if the robot breaks things. The blocks are strategically placed, some in areas that are difficult to reach and some that are easier.
“The goal of that was actually to maybe help develop critical thinking skills and time management and time management, like we don’t want to go for that block, that’s in a hard spot, instead we’re going to try and take a route to get all the easy ones,” Diamond said.
Additionally, because every team designs their robot in a different way, some blocks will be hard to get for one team while they will be easy for another, and vice-versa. The top three teams that get the most blocks each win a trophy.
“We don’t want them to think robotics is something stressful and hard. We want them to think of it as easy and fun, something accessible,” Diamond said.
“The goal here is to get a basic foundation of what robotics is like,” Perdue said.
For a student there from Buffalo Island Central named Henry Sills, it was his second time competing. He’s in eighth grade and learned about robotics in his EAST class, which he has been in for a year.
“Robotics has always been something I’ve been interested in, the actual building of it and the coding,” Sills said.
A group of students from East Poinsett–Christopher, Dalton, Bella, and Jumaro–was there for the first time. They’re also all in the eighth grade, and it’s their first year learning robotics in their EAST program.
“Building stuff is cool,” Christopher said.
NOTE: Feature photo by Atsuki Ohbuchi of students Annie Shepherd and Vignesh Nair. Other photo in article also by Atsuki Ohbuchi.
ASU hosts robotics competition for local middle schoolers. Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council