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SciTech Tuesday: The National WWII Museum’s 2016 Robotics Challenge

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The theme of the 4th Annual National WWII  Robotics Challenge was Can Do! That was the motto of the Seabees in World War II. The Seabees (officially they were the United States Naval Construction Force) built bases, airstrips, and all sorts of things, especially in the Pacific Theater. Their nickname came from the fact that they were organized in Construction Battalions. Their average age was older than most of the military, because these were experienced construction workers and working engineers given this special assignment.

The war in the Pacific, which is the focus of The National WWII Museum’s newest gallery, The Road to Tokyo, held many challenges. The volcanic islands, the vast expanses of ocean between them, the lack of infrastructure (or the destroyed infrastructure), volcanoes and earthquakes–all made the logistics of this campaign a great challenge. Robotics was not really a part of World War II, but solving problems by extending the abilities of current technology was. Today, robotics is a great way to extend the abilities of technology, and it is a way to engage young people in learning to solve problems with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

The Robotics Challenge has two parts–A Design Project and the Robot Competition–and involves teams of up to 10 3rd-8th grade students.

In the Robot Competition, students use Lego Mindstorms robots to accomplish a series of tasks. They program their robot to complete as many tasks as it can in 2 minutes and 30 seconds. This year the tasks included moving ships to a harbor, crossing the equator, and fighting malaria. The tasks use models and analogies to teach the history of WWII at the same time as they teach programming and problem-solving skills.

The Design Project this year asked students to design a Rhino Ferry with a limited range of supplies. Rhino Ferries were pontoons, basically sections of pontoon bridges or harbors, with engines on them. They had to test and redesign until they came up with a final design, and to propose a cost and construction plan. This project helps build student skills in STEM that might not be used as much in the competition.

We wouldn’t have been able to have had a successful challenge without the help of a dedicated and enthusiastic team of volunteers, who assisted The National WWII Museum’s Education  staff in running this event. In particular, Chevron (which also provided major funding for the challenge) sent many volunteers. The robotics team from Fontainebleu High School served as referees, and this was a crucial assist.

Forty teams participated in the 2016 Robotics Challenge–36 made it to Challenge Day. I think all of us AND all  of them are winners, since we are preparing these youngsters for the future. The winners in each category of awards are listed below.

Rhino Ferry Project

  1. Gretna No. 2–Barrow’s Bravehearts
  2. Phyllis Wheatley–761st Tank Division
  3. St. George Episcopal–Higgin’s Heroes

Robot Design and Process

  1. After the Bell Robotics–Legotrons
  2. Madisonville Jr High
  3. Faith Christian Academy

Robotics Competition

  1. TIE Patrick Taylor Academy–TIE Fighters and Central Alabama Community College–Legonators
  2. Faith Christian Academy
  3. Girl Scouts of Louisiana East–The B7 Teens

Special Award

Metairie Park Country Day School–The CDs (outstanding work by a very young team)

Grand Champions

Girl Scouts of Louisiana East–The B7 Teens (all around excellence and amazing teamwork)

Posted by Rob Wallace, STEM Education Coordinator at The National WWII Museum.

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