Hundreds of students from around St. Charles County converged at St. Charles Community College on March 3 for the 19th annual GM LEGO® Robotics Challenge.
The GM LEGO® Robotics Challenge is a design and presentation event where students practice their (STEM) science, engineering, math, and technology skills by designing robots to overcome real world challenges like those found at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Wentzville.
This 2017 challenge featured 260 students on 50 teams from 34 middle school and 16 high school teams across St. Charles County. The teams designed LEGO® Mindstorms® kit robots to simulate a material handling robot by picking and placing LEGO® blocks. The idea was to get students familiar with mastering robotics and giving team presentations without following a blue print.
“We give them a problem to solve but we don’t show them anything that would take away from their imagination to solve the issues, said Brian Steber, GM Wentzville’s senior manufacturing engineer who has been writing programs used at the challenge for nearly a decade. “This year’s program gave students a full range of experiences with using different technologies available from LEGO® Mindstorms® robotic kits. I’m real proud of what I saw coming out of these young minds.”
Steber draws from his experiences at the General Motors Plant in Wentzville to develop the programs and partnerships that are used at the challenge. Throughout the process he helps answer questions the students might have via an online discussion group. The learning curve is steep but the challenge of learning how to get a design to work is invaluable for students learning robotics.
“Don’t be afraid to try new ideas and believe in refining all of them. Mistakes happen, don’t be detoured by problems you encounter. Trust your team and stick with it,” said members of the “Average Joes” team from St. Charles West High School consisting of Brody Leimkuehler, Nick Rispoli, Cody Blackwell, Aslen Edge, and Will Gamache.
Following a long day of presentations by students ranging from 5th grade middle school to high school seniors, judges gave points and evaluated teams on design, engineering, teamwork and presentation. Rick Crockett, a former GM employee who is now retired, organized the panel of judges and came away impressed with the students abilities to problem solve and present.
“It was wonderful to see the kids problem solve, build their robots, and get experience presenting them,” said Crockett. “Presentation skills can make or break a real world engineering assignment. Many demonstrations went smoothly but a few fell apart or crashed. It was good to see some of the teams recover smoothly and not let the mishap derail their presentation.”
The St. Charles Community College Workforce Development 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.
There was no cost for teams to participate in this year’s challenge and six of the first place teams from each division received a LEGO® Mindstorms® robotics kit for their participation.
Here is a list of the top teams from each division:
- Team Korruption – St. Charles High School with a score of 278
- Bro Bots – St. Charles West High School with a score of 276
- Team Farnsworth – St. Charles High School with a score of 263
- Average Joes – St. Charles West High School with a score of 294
- AlphaBots – St. Charles West High School with a score of 264
- Cold Magicians – St. Charles High School with a score of 236
- The Flashy Kartoffels – Saeger Middle School with a score of 289
- Funky Pandas – Barnwell Middle School with a score of 259
- 7th Sensations – Orchard Farm Middle School with a score of 258
- Dream Machines – Francis Howell Middle School with a score of 281
- Fin Dovah Kriid – Saeger Middle School with a score of 279
- GearTurners – Jefferson Intermediate School with a score of 262
- Hex-Tech – Barnwell Middle School with a score of 284
- The Dream Team – Saeger Middle School with a score of 280
- Lamborghini LEGOS – Barnwell Middle School with a score of 261
- Spare Parts – Barnwell Middle School with a score of 283
- Drop the Beet – Barnwell Middle School with a score of 279
- Fruity Pebbles – Saeger Middle School with a score of 267