Robot Rally Helps Generate Interest for Math, Science

Robot Rally Helps Generate Interest for Math, Science
Team Smash Brothers watches their robot compete.
Students from Collegewood Elementary School cheer for their school.
Students from two elementary schools competed in the rally.

The lesson included engineering, science and math — and a lot of cheering, screaming and applause.

The annual Robot Rally at Cal Poly Pomona attracted dozens of fifth- and sixth-graders who put their ideas to the test in a Lego robot sumo competition and an “archeological dig” in the Building 17 atrium on May 19. Through the School Robotics Initiative, mechanical engineering students served as mentors in the months leading up to the event, with a goal of exciting their young proteges about the thinking and skills required to build a robot.

The competitors preprogrammed their robots' moves, so the action was literally out of their hands. Still, that didn't dissuade them from coaxing, prodding and using body language in an effort to influence the outcome.

Team Smash Bros., consisting of Hugo Alvarado, Christian Avila and Juan Perez from Montvue Elementary School in Pomona, won both events.

The School Robotics Initiative is a collaborative effort involving faculty from CEIS, the College of Engineering and the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences. Team members include Cesar Larriva, associate professor of education; Jill Nemiro, associate professor of psychology & sociology; and Mariappan “Jawa” Jawaharlal, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The Los Angeles Times featured the robot rally in an article and video about sparking excitement in math and science among students.