NATCHITOCHES – A team from Caddo Middle Magnet School won first place in the Robotics Competition at Northwestern State University Wednesday. Broadmoor Middle Lab placed second and Donnie Bickham Middle School placed in the competition, which was sponsored by the Department of Engineering Technology. Ninety-one students on 22 teams from middle schools within a 100-mile radius of Natchitoches participated in the competition that included speed, strength, accuracy and a new category, maze challenges.
“Our Fall competition, NSU-RC2 went very well,” said Dr. Jafar Al-Sharab, professor of engineering technology and organizer of the competition. “The number of participating students has tripled since our last competition. This is a clear evidence of the the continuous interest in our competition.”
In addition to middle schoolers, a team from Keithville Elementary participated in the competition and a team from Southwood High School offered a demonstration on their advanced robot, which is designed to breach defenses, pick up and throw a ball and spin in 360-degree circles.
“We were very impressed by the Southwood High School demonstration,” Al-SHarab said. “The knowledge and hands-on experience they demonstrated was superior and even better than many college students. In my personal opinion, this should be the minimum level that our schools should be at.”
Al-Sharab said the enthusiasm of the young engineers was apparent.
“Participating students demonstrated excellent knowledge in programming, hardware and basic science. Students worked very hard for the last couple of months to sharpen these skills. Moreover, students show creative ideas in problem solving skills to excel in the competition challenges,” he said.
The competition is intended to generate interest in studies related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“No doubt we are on the right path, but we still have lots of work to do in our state,” Al-Sharab said.
“I was impressed today by the continuing improvement of the schools who participate in the competitions,” said Curtis Desselles, an instructor in the Department of Engineering Technology who helped judge the competition. “I had a few who were, for all practical purposes, engineers. The Southwood demo was excellent and I was impresses by the caliber of teachers, many of whom graduated from NSU. Overall, it was a great success.”
Sharab said there will be a spring competition in 2017 with a date to be determined.
The event was being sponsored in partnership with the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce Education Fund.