YSU trying to raise funds to expand robotics competition


By BRANDON KLEIN

bklein@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Students from across Northeast Ohio used their robots to meld education and competition Tuesday at Youngstown State University.

The 18th annual Northeast Ohio Robotics Education Program Competition took place at Beeghly Center on campus.

Eighteen teams from 11 schools in Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage and Lake counties competed in either the middle school or high school divisions.

Students programmed their LEGO robots to perform tasks. The competition’s theme this year was “March Madness.”

“It’s a very good experience,” said Arlene Floyd, director of the associate degree and technical prep programs at YSU.

Competing were 130 students, she said, adding that the program can accommodate 40 teams.

The competition serves as a low-cost alternative for schools, although many go on to compete on the state and national level.

“Our purpose is to provide an experience,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges for such a competition is training instructors on the software to program the LEGO robot.

“A lot of schoolteachers [in the competition] are self-taught,” she said.

Floyd said she is working to raise funds to train 40 teachers on the software, which requires about $5,000 total.

“We would like to provide it [the training] free of charge,” Floyd said, adding that she doesn’t want the cost to roll over onto the schools.

Mary Ann Landers, a teacher at Willow Creek Learning Center, 1322 W. Western Reserve Road, Boardman, said the experience was both frustrating and rewarding at times.

“We’re still adjusting to the program,” she said.

Landers learned the software on her own, but also from the students as well.

“We put a lot of effort into it,” said Goral Singh, a sixth-grader at Willow Creek.

This is the second year for Willow Creek Learning Center’s participation. Some schools have competed for much longer such as the Lake Shore Compact, a consortium of four school districts in Lake County.

The consortium has competed for 13 years, said Mike Prochaska, an instructor in the Lake Shore Compact.

Lake Shore had three teams compete this year, which brought out some friendly competition, said James Fordyce, a junior at Mentor High School.

“It’s never the same event twice,” he added.

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