Games of Drones: CASE for Kids Teens Contest Space at All-Earth Ecobot Challenge

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May 21, 2019 by HCDE-Texas

View event photos: https://bit.ly/2QhmrRe (password hcde1889)

Steady hands, calculated moves and calm behaviors prevailed at the 2019 All Earth Ecobot Challenge drone competition as teams of 80 teens contended for titles May 17 at Space Center Houston.

The competition hosted by Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids, or CASE for Kids, supplied a full day of challenges, including broken parts and drained batteries.

“It builds teamwork and makes students more responsible,” said Christyna Ferrell, lead science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teacher at Yellowsto

ne Academy, a state charter school.

Ferrell, a baby boomer, said drones didn’t even exist when she was growing up. Today, drones deliver the promise of engineering and IT careers. Drones are becoming staples in business, medical and technology industries.

HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. joined volunteers and sponsors from Workshop Houston, Spindletop Charities, CenterPoint Energy, Wood and the Education Foundation of Harris County. Curiosity was an initial reason the HCDE superintendent observed and met with students at the competition. He soon became impressed by the programming, coding and piloting challenges the teens surmounted.

“These students are engaged in thinking outside of the box, and these are the very skills they need to cultivate as young adults,” said Colbert.

Houston Independent School District Holland Middle School student Precious Hunter believes being a female drone pilot will give her opportunities she might not normally get, like being able to go to places like the Space Center Houston at NASA.

“It also allows me to look into careers in STEM, and I like that opportunity,” Hunter said.

CASE for Kids Director Lisa Thompson Caruthers said the drone competition is in its inaugural year as the 2019 Ecobot Challenge split challenge vehicles this year. Younger elementary students work with Mindstorm Lego kits in robotics while the middle school students moved to   drones.

“The dynamics and capabilities of drones is expanding, and we thought it would be beneficial for teens to explore drones and the careers made possible by using geographic information systems,” said Thompson-Caruthers.

Specific programming challenges were required for the competition. Team drones were timed to race through obstacles as they demonstrated piloting skills.  An EcoGenius lab allowed for leisure learning and introduced games and software supplied by CASE for Kids’ Sharing Multiple Afterschool Resources and Technology Zone, or SMART Zone, free resources available to students through their afterschool providers.

1st Place: Westchester Academy, Spring Branch ISD

Five Winners of the 2019 All-Earth Ecobot Drone Challenge:
1. Westchester Academy for International Studies (district charter), Spring Branch ISD
2. Mindstormer Robotics Homeschool Team
3. Yellowstone Academy, YCP Flyers Team, state charter school
4. Spring Forest Middle School, Game of Drones, Spring Branch ISD
5. Spring Oak Middle School, Purple Alliance, Spring Branch ISD

CASE for Kids is an afterschool intermediary which provides resources, training and afterschool services for over 14,000 students and 2,800 teachers in greater Harris County. All Earth Ecobot Challenge is the largest event hosted by CASE for Kids and allows students from greater Harris County to compete through STEM challenges. More info at Chttp://www.hcde-texas.org .

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