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Robot soccer match shows students the fun side of science


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SALT LAKE CITY -- To show high school students that science and math can be fun, the University of Utah's College of Engineering hosted a soccer match Friday. But the players were not people. The high school students had to make their own players -- out of robot kits.

Dozens of teams will be up playing at the Huntsman Center at the University of Utah this weekend. One local team is hoping to make it to nationals.

The West High School students are proud of their soccer-playing machine. They only had six weeks to build it, and they had to meet every day after school to get it done.

West High student Hanne Paine said, "It's difficult to get things done on time."

"Just watching the accomplishment of building something, then having it move around and being able to drive it, then working with these other teams is a great experience, and it's tons of fun," said Nicholas Traden, also from West High School.

There are 30 teams competing, even some from out of state. The regional tournament is put on by the University of Utah's College of Engineering and Utah Governor's Office for Economic Development.

To get students exposed to robotics and show them math, science and engineering are exciting, the kids had to do more than just build and control their robots.

"Not only did we have to do the hardware and software for the robot, but we had to have a business plan to go get funding," Traden said. Each robot kit costs $6,000.

The students do not get school credit for this.

Traden said, "This is all extracurricular, but the lessons we learn here are definitely out of the classroom, more hands on. The experience of a lifetime!"

"This is probably the most exciting thing I have ever done in high school," Paine said.

Winners will be announced Saturday, and the first-ever national competition will be held in Atlanta next month.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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Amanda Butterfield

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