When the Vex Robotics Competition gets underway at Okanagan College on Feb. 9, it will be the first time the Pacific Youth Robotics Society will have held a tournament for high school level robotics enthusiasts in the B.C. Interior.
Okanagan College is hosting the event as part of its efforts to encourage more high school students and their parents to consider education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math, explains Vladimir Neykov, a professor in the college’s mechanical engineering technologies department which is helping co-ordinate the event.
About 80 high school age students and their robots will be competing on a 12-by-12 foot “field” in a game called Sack Attack.
It involves independent and manipulated robot activity where teams score points by putting beanbags into elevated troughs. While the focus is on having students address the technological challenge using mechanical, electronic and programming skills (and have fun), it’s much more than that, says Lance Balcom, the president of PYRS.
“It’s a challenge that forces them to work together as a team, to articulate complicated ideas and hear those of others, and build a superior technical solution together. If we can get kids learning those skills at this age, we’re preparing them to compete in the 21st century,” Balcom said.
PYRS is a youth-oriented organization committed to the development and support of student robotics as a means to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in British Columbia.
Beginning in 2006, the organization initially focused on Vancouver area schools, but has now grown to more than 100 teams including a growing presence on Vancouver Island and most recently here in the Interior.
One of those who has had a hand in helping PYRS grow in the region is Summerland Secondary teacher Nick Kast.
He’ll be bringing four teams that he has been coaching from Summerland to Kelowna for the competition.
“It’s great to have it in Kelowna,” he said. “The kids are really excited. It’s something I really hope will catch on in a bigger way in this region.”
One of the not-so-secret reasons to holding the Vex Robotics competition in Kelowna is to encourage parents and the public to come out and generate interest in the program, to continue to build program participation in the region, says Balcom.
“We really hope that interested parents and students will stop by on Saturday to see what the competition is all about.”
Competition hits full stride at about 10 a.m. and the elimination finals will start at about 2 p.m.
For more about the contest see the website www.robotevents.com.