Vina students compete at STEM Expo
With a multi-week NASA project completed, students in the T.R.A.C.K.S. program at Vina were ready for a new challenge. For 4-H STEM Agent Jacob Blacklidge, the choice was clear: robotics.
With an NXT LEGO robot kit and a little advice from Extension Specialist assistant professor Dr. Tony Cook, Vina students were ready to collaborate to build and program a robot for the 4-H STEM Challenge and Expo, held Thursday in Hartselle. Blacklidge taught the students how to use special software to program their robot block by block. “You have to put different moves in for the robot, to make it go forward or backward or turn,” Blacklidge explained. The students were able to direct their robot in maneuvers to “pick up a table, take it over and put it in the shipping zone and then go pick up a table from overstock and put it back where the first table was” – in a simulated but true-to-reality scenario, represented on a small scale.
“They executed it perfectly. I was so proud of them,” Blacklidge said. “They came together and worked hard on it.”
Sixteen students participated in the competition, divided into four teams. In addition to robotics, students got to enjoy the challenges of other stations, like learning to fly drones and building and launching model rockets. “They had another station where they built model spaceships that could function as living quarters or modes of travel,” Blacklidge said. “They also had one more station, where they could build model cars and try to get the aerodynamics such that they went the fastest and stayed on course. So it was lessons in a lot of different sciences.”
Blacklidge said the Extension and the 4-H program wanted to expose the students to the different kinds of potential career opportunities that might choose to pursue across a wide range of STEM-related fields. “A lot of them, as much as they excelled doing just this robot project, I am confident we have some smart students who will be able to go far if they apply themselves,” he said.
Vina students excelled by all scoring either gold or silver based on the number of cumulative points they scored at each STEM station. Students who participated were: Faith Haas, Kaley Attaway, Molly Dill, Cheyenne Davidson, Madison Welch, Megan Dill, Cameron Burks, Amy Colvin, Morgan Miller, Billy Horton, LaDava Davis, Hunter Griffith and Brady Hardin, who scored silver, and Hunter Emerson, Autumn Stidham, Baylie Scott and Justin Sparks, who scored gold.