On Saturday, April 23rd, the University of Illinois Extension 4-H program hosted a robotics showcase and competition. Held at the University of Illinois Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), hundreds of kids ranging from gradeschool to early teens descended upon campus with their electronics kits to show off their technical and computer programming wizardry- not to mention how well they worked as teams. While parents did help with a little coaching, by and large the bulk of the work was done by the kids themselves, and it was none too amazing to watch them work out complex problems in short amounts of time despite not being professionals in the field of robotics... yet.
The competition of the day was to have a robot run through a course that resembled a dog agility run- complete with weaves, ramps, and tunnels. Each team had three 3-minute runs to complete the course, with 15 minutes in between each run to head back to their pit area and try to work out any kinks in the computer programming that caused them to miss points. While this was definitely a lot of fun for the kids, it was clear that they took the competition seriously as well; cheers of victory went up when things went according to plan, and sighs of frustration and covered faces appeared when the robots went off track.
While there were trophies and ribbons to be had, at the end of the day the emphasis was much more on teamwork. Off to the side in multi-purpose rooms, expert judges from the University of Illinois, including some current students, tasked each team with a particular robotic program challenge to solve. The actual goal? Work as a team! Whether the task was solved mattered little, as the focus was truly on how well the kids worked together to find a solution. After just a brief observation it became very clear that we adults could learn quite a lot from watching some of these youngsters.
For more coverage of the event, check below! You can also stop by the Illinois 4-H Facebook page for more information about 4-H and their awesome programs.
Below, there were plenty of chances to get some hands-on experiences with other technologies too, such as soldering and computer-controlled sewing.
Below, some big robots were on hand too. This one just couldn't keep down anything that it ate.