By Madina Toure
Six students from the RoboMindTech Science and Technology Learning Center in Fresh Meadows will represent the United States this Friday in the 11th World Robot Olympiad in Sochi, Russia, one of the world’s largest robotics competitions.
The teams, which are each made up of three students — Team K.I.S.S. (high school category, 16-18) and Apollo 14 (middle school category, 13-15) — competed in the World Robot Olympiad USA competition in Detroit at the end of September. Forty U.S. teams from six regions participated in the competition.
The two RoboMindTech teams, along with seven other U.S. teams, qualified for the World Robot Olympiad, marking the first time that the United States will take part in that event. It will be held at the Main Media Center in the Olympic Park in Sochi from Nov. 21-23.
“My center’s teams won U.S. Nationals,” said Dennis Chan, RoboMindTech’s founder, director and coach. “So we stepped up, not only being U.S. champions but representing the U.S. to compete in robotics with another 50 countries this year.”
The WRO is a global science and technology event that helps youth strengthen their problem-solving skills and creativity through robotic competitions. The theme for this year’s competition is “Robots and Space,” in reference to the space race between the United States and Russia during the 20th century.
Teams representing 50 countries will be participating in WRO 2014. The event will consist of multiple competitions, performances organized by the Russian government, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) conferences, international team exchanges and opening and closing ceremonies.
Created in 2010 by Chan, RoboMindTech is a science and technology learning center at 185-10A Union Turnpike that brings together robotics and Lego play to provide youth ages 4 to 14 with a hands-on curriculum. The center’s offerings include weekly summer camps, after-school workshops, off-site school workshops and school field trips.
since“A school like MIT wants kids to be hands-on,” he said, which means students must not only be good students but also be able to invent and create.
The RoboMindTech students worked as late as 3 a.m. on weekdays during the summer and on weekends during the first month of school to develop ideas for the competition.
They split up into teams so they could address the competition’s theme in different ways. Some students built and programmed a robot to complete challenges on a game field by itself, limited by time and mechanical limitation. Other students created a robotic arm that would enable direct access to the space station by scientists on Earth.
“They want us to learn international space — not just U.S. NASA but international space,” Chan said. “So they created robotics games based on this theme. All the robotic games are designed around space exploration.”
In April 2012, the first all-girls Lego team from RoboMindTech won top honors at the New York City First Lego League Regional Tournament in Manhattan. The center’s teams have also won the U.S. Nationals in the First Lego League.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.