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Students build robots to throw, climb for competition


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WEST VALLEY CITY — High school students from all over the western United States gathered at the Maverick Center Thursday for a competition to test their science and engineering skills by building robots.

The program, "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," has held the robotics competition for the past few years to encourage students to learn about science and technology. The goal is to help students gain an interest in those fields and ultimately turn it into a career.

Thursday was a practice day for the students to have an opportunity to test the robots they designed and built. Each group of students in the competition were given a box of gadgets to build a robot that could throw a Frisbee-type disc and climb the rungs of a ladder.

The team from Hillcrest High School is one of 44 teams involved in the robotics competition and they said the tasks are not easy. In their first practice run, their robot moved, but couldn't throw the Frisbee.

Many of the other teams had technical and mechanical issues as well, requiring them to continue to fix and adjust their robots. However, despite the setbacks, the students seemed excited about the things they are learning.

"My goal is to go into engineering, possibly Utah State," said Rien Reid, a senior at Hillcrest High School. "I want our school to go into teaching others, younger kids to get into robotics."

During the competition, the teams have 10 chances for their robots to score as many points as possible. The educators involved in the event were impressed by the skill level demonstrated.

"All aspects of professional life are captured in this event," said Mark Minor, an associate professor in mechanical engineering at the University of Utah. "I've seen very few robots that are actually the same. It's amazing. I'm impressed as a professor."

The Utah Legislature recently approved $9 million to fund STEM education programs to further promote science, technology, engineering and math in Utah. Gov. Gary Herbert was excited about the robotics competition and plans to speak at the event on Friday.

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Keith McCord

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