White Plains robot competition

Students from Alexandria Elementary School work together during a timed trial of their robot. (Kirsten Fiscus/ The Anniston Star)

Robots took over the White Plains High School gymnasium on Saturday.

Students from nearly a dozen regional elementary and middle schools filled the high school on Saturday to put their minds and the robots they built with them to the test.

“Everything they’re learning here will apply someway to their life later,” Wendy Turner, the White Plains Middle School robotics sponsor said.

Teams had robots perform tasks like picking up stacks of rings, placing them from one peg to another or pushing them into goals.

“They work so hard to get to these competitions,” Turner said. “Most students are learning to code in elementary school and so we have one section of the competition where they program the robot and it does the tasks on its own.”

The middle of the gym was roped off as teams of two from two schools went head-to-head for a minute on a table-top playing field. One student from each team would take the controller and then switch with another student with 30 seconds left on the clock. Some students high-fived at the end of the 60 seconds, others wore looks of disappointment as they struggled through the tasks.

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In another section of the competition, students presented research and proposals for robots designed to complete farming tasks or help with rescue missions.

“These children are trying to solve adult problems,” Jennifer Edwards, one of the judges, said. “They’re looking at robots that already exist in those areas and brainstorming what could be improved. They usually come in with a poster and sometimes they have a prototype.”

The robots encourage the students to get involved with science, technology, engineering and mathematical courses, also known as STEM, Edwards said.

“STEM is for everyone,” she said. “Based on what we’re seeing today, we’re going to be well taken care of later in life because of these children.”

Emma Tidwell, a 9-year-old White Plains Elementary student, said her team won an award for their project at a competition last week.

“We had an idea for a robot wheelchair,” she said. “One of our judges was in a wheelchair and he said he’d use our robot.”

That award earned Tidwell and her team a spot in the state competition in Gadsden. Last year, one of the White Plains Elementary School teams made it to the world competition.

“We want to go again,” the 9-year-old said.

Tidwell said she got into robotics to be an example.

“There are a lot of boys that do this and I wanted to show girls can, too,” she said. “I hope any girls that are shy about joining the team will do it.”

While the projects are fun, Eldrin Sani, an Alexandria elementary student, said he hopes to work on robots when he grows up.

“This gets kids into engineering,” he said. “I’ve grown up building and programming using code. I want to do this when I’m older.”

​Staff writer Kirsten Fiscus: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @kfiscus_star.

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