A cacophony of cheers echoed through the engineering building atrium as 300 enthusiastic students from seven middle and elementary schools rooted for their teams in the STEM Through Guided Discovery fifth annual Robot Rally on Thursday, May 5.
The rally celebrated the accomplishments of students who worked at their schools for 20 weeks in Cal Poly Pomona’s Lego Robots program.
The program is supported by a team of Cal Poly Pomona engineering instructors, including Mariappan Jawaharlal, Victor Okhuysen and Tanya Faltens. With a team of 20 undergraduate students, the instructors introduce engineering and science to the students in non-traditional, innovative and interesting ways.
“There is enough research data that shows if you are excited about something, you do better. Same thing in modern science, technology and engineering,” Jawaharlal says. “We’ll create a good group of students who want to follow engineering or science and technology career related paths in college, that’s the ultimate goal. But we want to do it in a fun way.”
The 105 teams that participated in the Robot Rally took on the sumo robot challenge and the impromptu obstacle course challenge, which test their math and programming skills – and provided excitement and comic relief.
The Lego robots – all shapes and sizes, with arms, ramps and shields designed to propel the enemy off the sumo platform – charged toward each other after a count of three. Battles raged amid cries of triumph and defeat as robots were pushed, dragged and turned on their sides.
In the obstacle course challenge, the Lego bots traveled through looming poster board tunnels and past craggy bricks to reach the finish line. Some veered dramatically off course at the last minute, much to the chagrin of the student-designer.
Racel Suyat, a student from Rincon Intermediate School in Rowland Heights, summed up her favorite part of the rally in one word: winning.
Racel, whose Team Boo prevailed in the sumo event, admitted that it took a few lucky breaks to finish in first. “I didn’t even think we would win,” she says. “There were other teams who worked harder than us.”
Christopher Garcia, a student at Shelyn Elementary School in Rowland Heights and member of the second-place Team Bruiser, was proud of his accomplishment.
“Even though we lost, we still won second place for our school, that’s what we were trying to do,” Christopher says.
(Top photo: A team from Shelyn Elementary School reacts to a robot battle. Bottom photo: Alisa Kidwell of Whittier Christian watches her robot start its journey through the obstacle course.)