Written by Cody White, Communications Assistant, with Pitsco Education
The old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” A recent event on the campus of Pittsburg State University in southeast Kansas proves that this is also a great strategy when it comes to helping students explore possibilities for their futures.
The annual Great Gorilla Games attracts hundreds of tech- and science-savvy students from three states. At this year’s event, students competed in flight competitions, dragster races, robotics obstacle courses, projectile-launching contests (catapults and trebuchets), and more. The atmosphere was electric – booming music; competitors making last-minute adjustments to their planes, catapults, and cars; cheering; and huge projection screens casting the emblem of the Gorilla Games (inspired by the emblem of the popular Hunger Games franchise) across the auditorium.The Great Gorilla Games event is organized by the university’s College of Technology and Department of Technology and Workforce Learning. One of the major aims is to draw talented students to the technology program at PSU. But event organizers are eager to point out that the support of area businesses and organizations has been appreciated and that their assistance helps to grow the whole community.“We couldn’t have done it without the support,” said Byron McKay, a graduate student who assisted in the running of the Games. McKay singled out Pitsco, saying the company has always been an amazing supporter of the event.As Pitsco has considerable experience in STEM competitions on the school-age level, the company lent some initial support to the planning phases and also provided some products used in the games. In addition, numerous Pitsco employees volunteered to run booths and serve as judges – an exciting change of pace for those employees who aren’t normally part of the competition circuit.Pitsco R&D Engineer Jason Hill reflected on the experience. “It was great to see the enthusiasm and the effort put forth from all the students. Having never witnessed a CO2 car competition, I was very impressed by the competitiveness of the students and creativity of their CO2 car designs. It was a good time and fun experience. Looking forward to next year.”Browse the photos in the online album to see scenes from the Games. The results of this team effort speak for themselves.
By Eileen Malick, TAG member, Atlee High School, Mechnicsville, VirginiaThe definition of robotics changes based on ubiquity. Thanks to modern technology and a thriving IT economy that demands STEM education at earlier ages, we have a growing marketplace that provides robotics at earlier ages with the following core themes that continue to evolve today:
Robots move: Since the creation of the word robot, meaning “labor,” in 1920, all robots are expected to move. Pitsco Education offers a hydraulic robot, which would create a discussion of whether it is a robot at all because it does provide movement and power (hydraulic), but sensing and intelligence could be discussed with entertaining results.
Robots are intelligent: Robots are indisputably intelligent and, with our already-ubiquitous proliferation of smartphones and mobile computing devices, making the difference between a computer and a robot a thin line of MOVEMENT.
Robots need power: Like life forms, robots need a power source. Theo Jansen has appeared on TED several times for his creation of “a new form of life,” but if you view the video, I believe he has created robots with a unique power system.
Robots have sensors: This would be the newest additions to the lines of robotics.
Do you need all four in order to have a ROBOT? This would be the same argument as saying “classic cars are not CARS.” Modern robots offer much more than their classic counterparts.
Changing Culture through “Coopertition”. The Boy Scouts started offering a Robotics badge in 2011, and one of the criteria are to do ONE of the following:
Attend a robotics competition and report to your counselor what you saw and learned about the competition and how teams are organized and managed.
Learn about three youth robotics competitions. Tell your counselor about these, including the type of competition, time commitment, age of the participants, and how many teams are involved.”
I can think of no better competition that values Cooperation and “Gracious Professionalism” (called “Coopertition”) than the FIRST® Robotics competition programs. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
The FIRST® Championship is set to take over the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri, from April 23-26. This amazing event caps off the 2013-2014 season of FIRST programs and brings together the top teams from FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), and FIRST LEGO® League (FLL®). Also featured is the Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) World Festival Expo. More than 10,000 students ranging in age from six to 18 years old will put their uniquely engineered robots to the test. Homeschool students have shown their ability to compete successfully in this event. In 2008, seven homeschooled high school students from New Jersey, known as Team Overdrive, won four regional tournaments to advance to the championships. During the championships, they proceeded to acquire two of the highest scores ever recorded. This year a group of homeschoolers have organized their team Green Machine through the Howard County Horizon 4-H Club and have shown strong contention at the local, regional, and state levels, including a win at the FIRST Tech Challenge State Robotics Championship in Maryland.
Visit www.usfirst.org for more information about the FIRST Championship.