East Tennessee students compete in regional robotics tournament

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BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – Over 100 students from East Tennessee middle and high schools gathered at the Holston Valley Middle School Saturday for a regional VEX robotics tournament.

These students competed to earn an invitation to the state finals and for a trip to what Guinness Book of World’s Records calls “the World Largest Student Robotic Event,” – the VEX Robotic World Championship.

“They have a skill set. They have to set the robot against the outside wall, they have to go through and pick up blocks, cubes they’re called, and depending on the amount of cubes they have, you get a point per cube in the little corners. Then you get more points if you put them up in the little cup devices,” explained Roger Duncan, a parent of one of the competitors.

The taller the cubes, the more points students get.

It’s not all competition for these students though. Competing in robotics tournaments is a jump start to these teenagers careers.

“It’s a fun experience because especially if you want to go into engineering or robotics in general then it’s good for you to get early experience with it,” said 7th grader Ashlyn Duncan.

Students are eligible for over $8,500,000 in scholarship money from colleges and businesses across the US.

The Georgia Institute of Technology reported that 92% of students who participate in the VEX program are interested in pursuing STEM education and careers as opposed to the 22% national average. Some were also eligible to earn REC Industrial Certification in Pre-Engineering and Robotics through a course of rigorous study and a proctored examination.

Ashlyn said she hoped tournaments like these encourage more young women to be interested in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“We don’t have a lot of girls, it’s mostly boys, and the girls that do come in they change the way of playing because they just have a different view of everything.”

At the end of the competition, four teams earn a trip to Nashville by using their creativity to design, build and program their robot to be the best in the timed contest.

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