The Kids Are All Right, Part 3

Students in a Robotic Competition, Somewhere. They look like middle school kids.

Students in a robotic competition, somewhere. They look like middle school kids.

I heard on the radio this weekend that ten middle school teams from Prince William County (where the City of Manassas and the Biscuit City studios are located) are traveling to California to compete in the VEX World Tournament of robotics.

I don’t know if you know anything about the world of student robotics, but basically students build robots to tackle a predetermined challenge and try to score as many points as possible. They learn problem-solving and teamwork in a hands-on manner.

Last week, 64 teams competed at “Roboticon” in Prince William County in which VEX teams from Prince William, the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, as well as private schools and home school students competed against each other.

“Roboticon is a middle school competition almost like the superbowl of robotics,” says Denyse Carroll, the regional STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education coordinator for Prince William and Manassas.

Two teams from Rippon Middle School, three teams from Bull Run Middle and one team from Stonewall Middle School, two from Manassas Christian School, one from Manassas Park Middle School and one from Marsteller Middle School will compete in California.

And get this–according to Carrol, there are are 250 middle school teams in the entire state of Virginia of which 168 are from the Prince William County area.

I think about our crude efforts to get all electronic in middle school, in a world of tubes and clumsily joined wires. We got about as far as crystal sets and that was about it. I still want to learn to solder (my daughter gave me a how-to-solder kit for Christmas a couple of years ago. I need to bust it out and figure out how to do it. I also would like to learn how to weld, which my nephew has offered to teach me.)

Radio was the big deal when I was a lad, and I actually had a show on our five-watt campus radio station my freshman year. But that’s another story for another time.

Who knows what we would have done if we had had computers and the internet. Harmed ourselves and others, I suppose.

But the tremendous involvement and achievements of local kids in robotics goes to show that they’re not out stealing hubcaps (if kids still do that). They’re learning something that will make the future better for all of us. And for that reason, the kids are all right.

(Facts and quotes liberally borrowed from a WTOP-FM account.)

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