Teen engineers compete in annual robotics competition

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Kez Kelco with the cubes that the Plasma Robotic's robot is designed to move. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Kez Kelco with the cubes that the Plasma Robotic's robot is designed to move. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Plasma Robotics won the Arizona West Regional competition. (Source: twitter.com/PlasmaRobotics) Plasma Robotics won the Arizona West Regional competition. (Source: twitter.com/PlasmaRobotics)
(Source: 3 TV/CBS5) (Source: 3 TV/CBS5)

Young engineers came together to compete in the 2018 FIRST Robotics Competition.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition challenges high school students “to design and build a robot using a standard “kit of parts” and within a common set of rules to try and defeat a video game boss and escape an arcade game.

[VIDEO: Students show their tech skills at First Robotics competition]

The competition creates a strict challenge where students raise funds, create a team brand, hone their teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-sized robots that play a hard field game against other competitors.  

“It’s just a great opportunity for the students to come together. They get to work together in teams, they learn all the business skills, so they know how to do marketing, how to get sponsorships, how to budget, and there’s also the whole engineering side, as well. How to design a robot, how to build it, how to compete,” Dr. Donna Ward, the Technology Program Director at Grand Canyon University, said. “I think it’s really opening up robotics, the whole STEM area, so students can get an appreciation that robotics isn’t real tough subject, anybody can be involved because there’s so many aspects to it.”

The Arizona West Regional event, which took place at GCU on April 7, was the sixteenth that has been held in Arizona.

 There were 42 teams in attendance including the Plasma Robotics team from Mesa.

The students from Plasma created a robot that can shoot cubes on both a large and small scale, lift itself up a few feet on a bar, and move around as it needs to.

According to student Kez Kelco, the process of building a robot takes the entire six weeks they are given.

[RELATED: Valley Robotics teams win at state championships]

 “We’ll meet six days a week, Monday through Saturday. Every day after school during the season usually until 6 o’clock but we go far past 6 o’clock some nights. Saturdays are usually almost all day. Sundays are our break days but then we get back on the grind on Monday,” she said.

An important part of the competition is allowing teenagers to work on their team working skills.

Kelco said that being a part of Plasma has taught her how to work with people who have different personalities and backgrounds.

Her fellow team member, Drew Cliburn, says at first being a part of the team was hard but it resulted in her gaining a family.

“It’s actually been really hard for the first couple of years because women don’t have that big of a step in STEM. So, I’ve been pushing really hard to make sure I have a spot on the team and I’m here,” Cliburn said. “I know I am a part of this team and this team has actually grown to be a part of my family and I could never ask for a better family than this.”

[RELATED: High schoolers prep for big robotics competition]

For teams to compete they must meet certain requirements that include:

-Having two or more adult mentors expertise to coach them;
-Ten or more high school students;
-A space to design and build an industrial-sized robot (150 lbs.);
-A standard kit of parts and common set of rules issues by FIRST; and
-A community sponsor(s) that will help fund the efforts.

Plasma Robotics were the Arizona West Regional competition’s champions and will be playing in Houston, Texas next.

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