Glenn Middle Schoolers Take State Robotics Title
SAN ANGELO, TX—On Saturday, April 7, the robotics team from Glenn Middle School took home first place in the Texas Computer Education Association's state Arena competition at Hutto High School in central Texas.
The Arena competition of the TCEA pits teams against one another with a set of tasks in a scenario that pertains to some sort of popular science subject while building with primarily LEGOs. This year the challenge had to do with exploring Mars.
"A few years ago when we had the hurricanes [in Texas], the challenge was cleaning up after a storm," said Glenn science teacher and coach Stanley Ratcliffe. "When they were doing a lot of fracking, the challenge was 'Texas Tea'. When Japan was having problems with nuclear reactors, that was a challenge. This year it was Mastering Mars...It's pretty intense and pretty amazing."
Teams get three runs at the challenge to get an average score. After the main challenge, teams get a mystery challenge. The teams know the rules, but don't know the task. During the mystery challenge, teams cannot talk to sponsors and must come up with a solution on their own. Not attempting the mystery challenge means losing 30 points to your overall score, according to Ratcliffe.
Over 1,400 teams participated in qualifying competitions similar to the Ballinger one the Glenn Middle Schoolers took part in. Only 59 made it to the state competition in Hutto. One came away victorious.
"It's pretty intense. It's pretty amazing," Ratcliffe said. "We've been pushing [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] classes. All three middle schools have STEM classes. You can see the results [of the classes], we won state! Robotics and STEM really are the future. We want to be the ones people have to keep up with."
Miguel Flores-Acton, Jackson Waddington and Tommy Burney made up the team of three who qualified for, and eventually won, the state competition by placing second at the Ballinger qualifying competition.
Flores-Acton and Waddington were the only team members who were able to make the trip to Hutto, but Ratcliffe wanted to make sure Burney got the credit he deserved for this team effort.
"It was the boys. They put in a lot of hard work," Ratcliffe said. "I'd give a few pointers and the boys would run with it."
Flores-Acton is the team captain for this trio and Ratcliffe couldn't be prouder of his leader.
"He really took the reigns," Ratcliffe said. "I can say part of a sentence and he's already running to get more parts."
The state championship isn't the end for the Glenn students, either.
"We're actually going to have more STEM classes, we're adding more robotics," Ratcliff said. "Trying to get kids to think on their own can be tough. Sometimes they do just enough and ask if they can be done. Not our robotics kids. They don't want to stop. Sometimes they ask me if I can call their next teacher just so they can stay and tinker a little longer. When you find something like that, you've found something magical. We couldn't do this without the support we've gotten."
The TCEA also boasts an invention competition where teams use LEGOs to make their invention and show it off like a science fair.