- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 23, 2018

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Stress, nerves and sweaty palms.

None of those conditions belonged at Covington Elementary this month as robotics teams from multiple schools prepared to put their creations to the test.

“It’s just for fun,” Covington fifth-grade teacher Tara Hallman assured the dozens of Southwest Allen County and Fort Wayne Community schools students, reminding them the informal event only mimicked real competitions to prepare them for the real thing.

Robotics has become especially popular at Covington, which began the program with Hallman’s class last academic year. Now open to the entire fifth grade, it has 38 participants who compete on six teams.

With robotics, students only need a desire to try, Hallman said, adding the activity offers an element of teamwork students can’t get elsewhere.

Teams build robots by modifying a basic framework. The devices must perform certain tasks during competitions.

“There are several students on my teams that initially thought they wouldn’t be able to work with someone else, yet they stuck with it and now at this point in the season, they are cheering each other on, and you’d never know that a few months ago they weren’t sure how it was going to work,” Hallman said.

“This doesn’t mean they will become lifelong best friends, but it does mean they have had an experience where they discovered they can work together with someone who might not have been a person they would have chosen to work with if given the chance to choose.”

Eileen Doherty, a Fort Wayne Community Schools fifth-grade teacher, said her Lindley Elementary School students love the hands-on aspect and never miss the weekly practice.

Nicole Griffiths was among the parents who watched the practice competition at Covington. Her daughter Brianna Riddles, a Lindley student, often gushes about robotics, she said.

“I cannot wait to see what they do,” Griffiths said.

Samantha Schroeder, a Covington student, acknowledged robotics has its challenges. She joined for a simple reason.

“I like building things and learning how things work,” she said.

As this month’s practice run showed - teams dealt with low scores and malfunctioning bots - there’s always room for improvement.

“Whether it’s changing your robot, perfecting driving techniques, adding computer programming or simply cheering on and helping out another team, the task really isn’t ever finished,” Hallman said.


Source: The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette, http://bit.ly/2DsWaYZ


Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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