More than 1,000 elementary, middle and high school students from across northwest Louisiana converged on the Bossier Civic Center Saturday to compete in a range of Lego robotics challenges in the seventh annual Regional Autonomous Robotic Circuit.
Taking home the gold in the elementary division was Central Park Elementary School in Bossier Parish. Alan Ramirez hoisted a trophy almost as tall as he is over his head triumphantly. The 11-year-old Central Park elementary student said he’s finally accomplished his dream of winning the local Lego robotics challenge.
“It feels great,” Ramirez said. “I wanted to finally build a robot that wins!”
This is the seventh year for the program put on by the Cyber Innovation Center’s NICERC program, which focuses on incorporating math, science and engineering into K-12 education in a way to entice students to pursue careers in those fields. To train and recruit the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and technologists, CIC’s Director of Academic Outreach Kevin Nolten said it’s important that children learn that science can be fun at an early age.
“Competitions like these help take those stem fundamentals and bring them out of the classroom in a fun way,” he said.
Ramirez said he wants to be a computer technician when he grows up.
In the competition, students build the robots and program them to complete a set of tasks like moving crates of ping-pong balls, picking up objects like tires and solar panels and navigating around obstacles on a map.
Competitions like these, Ramirez’s teacher Callie Schneider said, help not only foster love for engineering and robotics, it also teaches children how to communicate and work in teams.
Northwestern State University’s elementary school team came in third out of a total of 110 elementary schools. The team’s captain, Teegan McKnight, was ecstatic.
“I feel like I could run 100 miles without stopping,” the 11-year-old said.
His team member, Coleman Cade, agreed.
“I feel like we are the champions like the Queen song,” he said.