By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Entering the gym area of McCollough-Unis Middle School May 13 would’ve made anyone think the future was here with 24 teams preparing their robots for competition.
The For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Tech Challenge Robotics Competition took place the school challenging the STEM skills of students statewide. All teams were encouraged to apply for the competition in districts across Michigan.
Of the teams competing, the three from Dearborn and Dearborn Heights were the McU-Bots from Unis Middle School, O.W. Best Royals and the STEM Middle School team.
The robotics team at Unis was started in 2015 after students approached science teacher Kidada Simmons. She then attended a training session at Wayne RESA where she learned about a state grant for schools staring a robotics team, and went from there.
“With the team created, I reached out to FIRST to host the event because a lot of the community was not aware of the non-profit,” Simmons said. “This May event was practice for the Dec. 9 event which will include state qualifying.”
Before the May 13 competition, teams had six weeks to build, program and design their robot based on the game set each year. This year’s game was set as Velocity Vortex.
At the competition, teams met with judges for 15 to 20 minutes where they explained how they built and designed their robots, as well as field inspection and robot inspection.
Teams also have to discuss how they completed their STEM outreach requirement.
“Along with building robots, each team must complete outreach by informing people about STEM careers and education possibilities,” said Simmons who also is the McU-Bots coach. “STEM is the future and these students are the ones who can encourage others to join in.”
During the competition teams of two were paired to square off with other paired teams to overcome obstacles and meet challenges for points.
“Judges also go around during the competition to see how the teams are working together in their alliance by being helpful and respectful,” Simmons said.
Following the competition teams were awarded by judges with the Motivate award, PTC Design award, Rockwell Collins Innovate award, Connect award, Think award, Dearborn FTC Spring Event Finalist Alliance and Inspire award.
The McU-Bots were presented with the Judges award and the STEMBots picked up the Inspire award.
“We are working and meeting with the district to expand funding for robotics at all levels through the Dearborn First Initiative,” Simmons said. “There has been discussion with the superintendent but it is in the early stages.”
Unis Middle School and FIRST will host an FTC qualifying match for state competitions with 34 teams Dec. 8 and 9.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)