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Mississinewa hosts robotics competition

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THE TENSION RISES: Fourth grade students Jacob Schwartz, left, and Jackson Scott from Northview Elementary drive their robot to stack plastic hubs and hang from a raised bar during the robotics competition at Mississinewa High School on Saturday.
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A NAIL BITER: Mississinewa Community Schools students, from left, Camden Head, Kallen Quaderer, Drew Hawk and Jaxon Ottcompete in a 60-second qualification round during a robotics competition at Mississinewa High School on Saturday.
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GIRL POWER:Northview Elementary School students Avery Casto, left, and Jarrah Tegardencontrol their team robot in a qualification round at Mississinewa's robotics competition on Saturday.
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LET THE GAMES BEGIN: A robot stacks plastic hubs to earn points at a robotics competition at Mississinewa High School on Saturday.

BY Emily Rachelle Russell - erussell@chronicle-tribune.com

GAS CITY -- Over 300 middle and high school students competed at the Mississinewa Robotics competition in the Mississinewa High School gym on Saturday.

Students in robotics teams from schools across the state spend the school year learning to build and control a robot before the competition. At the local event, teams of two students each go head-to-head in 60-second qualification rounds, according to Northview Elementary School’s Assistant Principal Amanda Varner.

The top 10 finalists at the local level then compete in the afternoon for a spot in the top four, which will go to state competitions at Lucas Oil Stadium in March.

This was fifth grade students Avery Casto and Jarrah Tegarden’s first year in the robotics program. They said they found the program fun. They were nervous to compete but excited at the possibility of making it to state competitions.

“I thought it was cool to design a robot,” Casto said.

The competition every year is a different task or “game,” Varner said. This year’s game required the robots to stack round plastic pieces called hubs to earn points. Bonus points were also awarded to teams who could make their robot hang from a raised bar in the middle of the playing field.

Sixth grade student Jaxon Ott participated last year and this year. He said he became interested in robotics after seeing his friends having fun with the program.

Kallen Quaderer and Camden Head, fifth grade students competing for the first time this year, found the competition challenging but enjoyed the program overall. Head especially loved the experience of building their own robot.

The event started with opening remarks shortly after 9 a.m. with qualification rounds running from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The finals began at 1:30 p.m. and closed at 2:30 p.m., after which winners were determined. Award announcements and trophy presentations took place at 3 p.m.

Mississinewa Community Schools began participating in this annual robotics program three years ago. RJ Baskett Middle School Assistant Principal Brodie Burbank recruited teachers interested in running the program, and they attended a training session. The first local competition was held at Northview Elementary School in 2015.

“We're reaching the students who do not want to play basketball or baseball or may not be interested in band or choir,” Burbank said. “They’re interested in something with robotics or engineering.”

Burbank said robotics programs like Mississinewa's expose kids to interests that can lead into programs at big universities like Purdue University and even scholarships.

This was sixth grade student James Windle’s second year competing. He remarked that all the local teams seemed to be doing well and having fun.

“(Robotics) involves a lot of teamwork,” Windle said. “Everyone has to work together to be successful.”

Varner shared that this program ultimately serves to foster creativity and encourage growth in students. The philosophy of Mississinewa Community Schools aims to support inclusiveness and offer opportunities to students with a variety of interests and abilities.

She hopes to see the program branch out to higher and lower grades in the coming years, eventually spanning across the entire K-12 curriculum.