200 Students Take Robotics Next Giant Leap at HCDE’s All-Earth Ecobot Challenge

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May 3, 2019 by HCDE-Texas

Photos: https://bit.ly/2VgoURm (hcde1889)

When students orbit the Earth, collect Moon samples and colonize Mars, a host of things can go right or wrong. The All-Earth Ecobot Challenge 2019 provided moments of uncertainty as well as celebration as 29 teams of elementary students competed through robotics and commandeered Lego robots through space challenges on April 27 at Berry Center In Cypress, Texas.

Students prepare for the event through afterschool or out-of-school time programs after being prepped on details of each year’s challenge, which has been an 11-year tradition at Harris County Department of Education. The challenge is provided through the Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids, or CASE for Kids, and the Education Foundation of Harris County, the nonprofit foundation which supports HCDE programs and services.

Park Place Elementary teacher Yasin Puertas, whose team finished first in the challenge last year and 10th this year, says his school’s robotics program has grown systemically because of support from parents, community and the principal. His school is located in southeast Houston in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood with a cadre of cultures.

“It very important for our kids to find and see the amazing things they can do,” the robotics teacher said.

CASE for Kids Director Lisa Thompson-Caruthers said while she knows the program helps builds confidence and leadership in the students involved.

“What robotics also does is promotes problems-solving and teambuilding skills,” Caruthers said. “It helps students build critical thinking skills and introduces them to careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.”

Judges and volunteers helped make the event a success with funding from CenterPoint Energy, the Wood Group, the Education Foundation of Harris County and volunteer assistance from the Assistance League of Houston, the Wood Group, Oceaneering.
KPRC reporter Sophia Beausoleil volunteered at the event on behalf of the Assistance League of Houston.

“We are helping out today because we know how important it is for kids to get STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education,” Beasoleil said.

Student Hudson McCulley of Spring Forest Middle School, Spring Independent School District, was a bit disappointed in his team’s first round one of judging.

“Everything worked perfect for us in the practice round, but when we were judged, everything messed up,” said the sixth grader. “My hope for round two is all goes as planned. We’ve got a 65 percent chance of it working.”

Jose Hernandez from Golfcrest Elementary is a novice to robotics but is committed to having fun while learning to program and build his team’s robot.

“I’m new to the team but I’m learning,” he said.

Teams competing traveled from as far as Seguin, Texas and included students from Huffman, Spring, Spring Branch, Cy-Fair, Galena Park and Cleveland.

The approximate 200 students competing in the challenge enjoyed activities from the Eco-Genius Lab when not competing. The lab was staffed by afterschool vendors who provided hands-on science experiments with real-world examples of science, technology, engineering and math and included: Mad Science, Nutty Scientist of Houston, BotShop and MaKrU, LLC.

The following teams gained the top 10 awards in the All-Earth Ecobot Challenge:
1. James DeAnda Elementary, Tigerbots, Houston ISD
2. Mindstormer Robotics Homeschool Team
3. Falcon Ridge Elementary School, Eliminators, Huffman ISD
4. Smith Middle School, Ecomartians, Cy-Fair ISD
5. Shirley Williamson Elementary, Robotic Lions, Houston ISD
6. Shirley Williamson Elementary, Wall-E, Houston ISD
7. Academy of Accelerated Learning Center Charter School, AALC Team B
8. Normandy Crossing Elementary, NCE Robotics Team 2, Galena Park ISD
9. Seguin Elementary, Seguin Stallions, Seguin ISD
10. Park Place Elementary, EcoBuilders, Houston ISD
For information about sponsoring or competing in the All-Earth Ecobot Challenge 2020, go to www.ecobotchallenge.com.

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