The 18th annual GM Lego Robotics Challenge was held at St. Charles Community College on March 4. Students from around St. Charles County brought their ideas and talents to the competition by designing robots to overcome real world challenges found in an automotive assembly plant.
The 2016 GM Lego Challenge featured 288 students on 48 teams who designed, engineered, and built Lego robots to function like turntable material handling applications used at General Motors. The competition was about mastering the art of robotics and team presentation without actually reading off a blue print.
“We don’t show them the robot at the plant because we want participants to use their imagination,”said Brian Steber, GM Wentzville Senior Manufacturing Engineer who has been writing programs for the challenge over the last eight years. “The program allows students to experience different technologies and exhibits that we have on site.”
In addition to writing the programs, Steber helps mentor students and answer technical questions they might have. It’s a team oriented partnership just like those experienced within a General Motors assembly plant.
“It was at first a real trying process with trying to get our initial design to work,” said Brian Redlawsk, a student team participant from St. Charles High School. “I’m looking to go into engineering later on and this experience will help me start thinking around the problems that I might encounter.”
Student teams presented their robots to a panel of judges who evaluated them and gave points based on design, engineering, teamwork and presentation. Only teams with the whole package can win the competition.
“I want to see a team where everyone contributes to a slightly different thing and everyone has contributed some essential element of it,” said Ward Silver, one of the 24 judges who took part in deciding the winners of this year’s competition. “The teams we’ve seen today have been innovative and done things we didn’t expect and solved problems in interesting new ways. It’s interesting to see them converge on standard solutions to some of these problems.”
Several studies show that STEM careers will continue to be in high demand well into the future yet there is a shortage of students choosing these paths. The St. Charles Community College partnership with GM Wentzville to host the challenge is a unique collaboration that organizers hope will spark more interest and participation in robotics and STEM fields.
“SCC does a great job working with GM and hosting such a great event for the community,” said Steber. Without their help this competition wouldn’t be the success that it is.”
Area schools were able to participate in this year’s challenge free of charge. The winning teams received a Lego Mindstorms robotics kit for their participation.
First place teams from each division this year include:
- Black Division – Team Dead Pool from St. Charles West High School
- Yellow Division – Team Rocket from St. Charles High School
- Blue Division – Team Fruity Pebbles from Saeger Middle Schoo
- Gray Division – Team Hex Tech from Barnwell Middle School
- Green Division – Team The Froggers from Barnwell Middle School
- Maroon Division – Team The Elektriks from Barnwell Middle School