BOSSIER CITY, La. (NNS) — Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians, in town for Shreveport-Bossier City Navy Week, served as special guest judges for the Cyber Innovation Center’s (CIC) Regional Autonomous Robotics Circuit (RARC) competition at the Bossier City Civic Center, May 1.
The CIC hosts RARC competitions for elementary, middle and high school students as part of its academic outreach program boosting students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
“Each competition gets more complex and harder, so the kids build on their skills,” said G.B. Cazes, vice president of the CIC. “It also maps back to what they’re learning in the classroom in math and science classes. We have a liberal arts element to it as well with writing, giving presentations and designing the robots.”
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Gene Bell, one of two Navy EOD technicians present, was wowed by the level of interest these children displayed at their young age.
“The kids were very interested in the rules, very interested in robots, and everything they needed to do,” said Bell. “They were super pumped about it all. None of them had a sad face. Even when they didn’t meet all the criteria, they were still very happy.”
Bell said he was impressed with this different angle on education and the results it yielded.
“These kids have the potential for doing something in the military, in research, even NASA,” said Bell. “… It puts these kids in that scientific research and development mindset with robots.”
Cazes said he was glad to have the Sailors there to judge and demonstrate their robots as it showed the students another real world application of what they’re learning.
“I think having the participation from the Navy and our other military support is phenomenal,” said Cazes. “We try to bring a real-life element to every competition. While they’re playing with and building these robots, they see there are careers in that, a future and opportunities. It’s always good to connect those dots.”
Bell said he was overwhelmed by the welcoming response and gratitude from the children present at the competition and their excitement at talking to himself and his teammate.
“They were very proud of the military presence there,” said Bell. “Every one of them that we judged thanked us for our service. The military spirit in this town is just awesome. It touches a place in your heart for young kids’ mindset to be that way, to thank a Soldier, Sailor, or whoever they come across for their service.”
Cazes is always eager to bring service members in to work with the students, he said.
“It’s great to have another opportunity to connect our children, our youth, with the military,” said Cazes. “It’s such a vibrant part of our community.”
Navy Weeks focus a variety of assets, equipment and personnel on a single city for a weeklong series of engagements designed to bring America’s Navy closer to the people it protects, in cities that don’t have a large naval presence.
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Hetherington, Navy Public Affairs Support Element Det. Northwest
Original article located here.