Students from around the region and across the state had the chance to show off their scientific skills during a robotics competition Tuesday at Ambridge Area High School.
"This is a first time for all these teams," said Kristen Holmes, technology education at the high school. "None of these teams have competed before. Their schools may have, but the kids, it's new to them."
Competing teams build their own robots from scratch and program them, all while learning skills in science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as STEM. Robots are paired up to compete in an obstacle course type arena, known as a field.
"The game is pretty simple," said Holmes, also an adviser for Ambridge's TSA and Robotics Club. "The hard part is obviously doing the team work and designing for your robot, because you can make it look however you want."
Holmes said the VEX Robotics Competition at Ambridge was the first to be held in Beaver County. But the high school event was one of VEX's many such competitions that take place internationally throughout the year.
Ambridge purchased its own field—the environment where the competition takes place—and is prepared to host more robotics competitions in the future.
Participating students used Tuesday to prepare for an upcoming Technology Student Association state conference April 9-11 in Seven Springs.
Junior Robbie Fisher, who is new to robotics and the TSA club, said he picked up valuable information at the competition.
"I learned a lot today, just through other teams, other schools here, the other guys on my team. I really knew nothing beforehand, so I've had a ton of fun," said Robbie of Economy, who wants to study video game design and virtual world development in college.
He is part of Team Nice Dynamite, which also consists of juniors Josh Johnston, the programmer and Matt Eger the builder.
Matt and Josh said they had been preparing for VEX competition since November. They planned to attend one in Pittsburgh in January, but one of them couldn't make it. Both said they want to study engineering, programming and information technology in college.
"It teaches you a lot about mechanics and how gears work and motors," said Matt of Ambridge.
"Also with the programming it teaches you computers, like standard C++ programs," Josh said.
In the end, Bethlehem's robot scored the most and took first place, but Holmes said everybody did a fantastic job.
"Everybody's robot worked. It was all successful. It makes me excited," Holmes said.
Other Ambridge students who competed were Jesse Karshin, John Munk, Zach Zern, Noah Hartman, Jeff Sarver, and Ruthann Weedon.
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