Robotics Derby has halls buzzing

The middle school was host to small robots in an after-hours performance trial.
CANFIELD -- There was something unusual about the halls of Canfield Middle School after hours Friday.
The typically deserted and quiet building was filled with conversation, laughter and a constant buzzing.
The cause of all this after-school commotion? The school held its first Robotics Derby in the gymnasium Friday afternoon.
The extracurricular competition attracted 24 eighth-grade pupils who are members of the school's robotics club. Only eighth-graders could take part in the competition, but seven seventh-graders served as aides by judging, setting up tables and taking photographs.
The event began with the registration of the pupils and their robots, which were about 8 inches in diameter and about 4 inches tall.
Before the actual competition, pupils had a chance to practice with their robots, each powered by a small electric motor.
The practice area gives the pupils a place to fine-tune their robots, said Dave Izzo, a technology teacher at Canfield and organizer of the event.
How this worked
The competition consisted of two stations. The first determined the accuracy of the robot's light sensor, which is on the bottom of each robot's body. To pass, the machine had to successfully travel along a thick, curved, black line drawn on a table.
The second station tested the robot's ability to travel through a wooden maze. This evaluated the touch sensor located along the left side of the robot bodies.
The competition involved successfully completing these two tasks. The pupils were not judged against one another to determine winners.
Most of the participants began working on their projects several weeks before the event. They assembled the Weasel Robot kits that they received and tested them in preparation for the competition.
Rachel Olson, one of the few female participants in the group, got involved with the robotics club because, she said, it seemed "fun."
Purposes of program
Izzo, who has been teaching a robotics class to Canfield seventh-graders since 1992, had taken a small group of pupils to robotics competitions at Youngstown State University in past years. However, having their own Robotics Derby allows more of the pupils to participate, he said.
Although the robotics program is educational, Izzo said he thinks it serves another purpose as well.
"We have all different types of students here, and every kid needs something to hang his or her hat on," he said.
In addition, Izzo said he thinks the Robotics Derby is something that helps the kids associate more closely with their school.
And, finally, Izzo will continue to offer this extracurricular activity to the pupils because it is "educational, age-appropriate" and just plain fun.

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