Weekly Feature



2015-01-08 / Front Page

Queen of Heaven competes with VEX robots

by JENNIFER WATERS
Editor


Queen of Heaven Middle School students James, left, and Joshua participate in the STREAM “Highrise” VEX robotics competition as part of a new after-school activity with the Diocese of Buffalo. Queen of Heaven Middle School students James, left, and Joshua participate in the STREAM “Highrise” VEX robotics competition as part of a new after-school activity with the Diocese of Buffalo. This year, Queen of Heaven School students had a new after school activity to participate in for the Diocese of Buffalo’s STREAM initiative — VEX Robotics.

(See editorial on page four)

Students in middle school learned how to collaboratively create two vex robots and participated in a diocesan-wide competition titled “Highrise.”

Aimee Bloom, a robotics instructor at Queen of Heaven School, said the competition was basically a giant science fair.

“It was a STREAM Expedition. We built vex robots and entered in the competition there,” she said.

STREAM stands for science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and mathematics, and is a push in the diocese to incorporate these core subject matters into all parts of education.

From Bloom’s after school program, 15 middle school students participated in the competition.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t win any awards. We were about 13 out of 30 schools,” she said.

The students used collaboration, learned engineering skills and how to put the VEX robots together to complete the task.

“The competition is basically they have to work together with a team that they don’t know. So, they were paired with a team that they didn’t know and they had to work together collaboratively on the robots that they built to take these cubes from one end to the other and then stack them. They had approximately one minute to do it,” Bloom said.

She said it was difficult to prepare when the November storm hit, costing the team two weeks.

“It kind of was tough with the two-week hiatus from the snow but we were given half a field to work with and we basically, we got together before the scrimmage began two or three times before that to practice with our robot that we built,” she said.

The weather didn’t detract from the student’s enjoyment of the competition.

“We spent weeks building our robots and practicing with them for the competition. We came across a few bumps in the road, but we overcame them and did our best in the competition. Even though we did not get into the final four we did pretty good and had fun doing it,” said Destiny, a 7th-grade student at Queen of Heaven.

Bloom added that she believes the goal of the competition is to set up a standard for science, engineering and robotics contests within the diocese going forward.

For Queen of Heaven School, the foundation of the robotics program is Bloom’s after school program.

“It’s an after-school activity that’s run for 10 weeks. I run them the first and third trimester, and you have to apply to get in,” she said.

The focus of the program was for the students to learn engineering design and teamwork.

“Hopefully this will open the doors to a career in robotics,” she said.

In the future, Bloom said she would like to teach her students how to program the VEX robots they build, using coding to allow the robots to move on their own. This would take the competition one step further.

“They would be self-controlled and next year I want to teach them how to use the robots with this type of programming,” Bloom said.

Her students were thrilled with the program this fall, and were more than excited to enter the competition. She said there is already a waiting list for the spring program which will begin at the end of January.

“They actually have nation wide competitions and I could see us eventually going that route,” Bloom said. “Robotics taught students about the importance of teamwork, while offering them the opportunity to further dive into the world of technology, specifically in the ever evolving field of robotics. This is definitely a course that will be here to stay.”

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