ENGLEWOOD – One way to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering and math is to give them a kit to build a robot and let their imaginations run wild.
“We have 20 teams that we handed out kits to,” said Tami Kirkland, standing inside the crowded gym of Englewood High School. “There are 19 robots that made it here today.”
Kirkland is the executive director of Front Range BEST, a non-profit that hosts an annual robotics competition for hundreds of middle and high school students. Each team was given an identical robotics kit six weeks ago. The students designed and built their robots to complete in various farm-related tasks on a course built inside the gym.
“They have corn they can harvest, tomatoes, lettuce, they can plant seeds and they can corral pigs into their pig pen,” said Nikki Baird, coach of the robotics team from Stem School and Academy in Highlands Ranch.
Baird stood out in the crowd wearing a pink, pig head hat.
“We’re keeping with the game theme,” Baird said, adjusting her hat.
Baird watched from the stands as her robotics team competed in the first couple rounds of the day.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Licia Lamb, a senior at Stem School and Academy. “It’s high energy, it’s high intensity, it’s just really cool.”
Lamb said she’d taken part in BEST competitions since the 8th grade.
“I love how diverse it is, I love how every team is on an equal playing field for the robot and how everybody comes up with new ideas every year,” she said.
Tami Kirkland hoped the robotics competition would inspire students to pursue careers in STEM.
“We want these kids to be successful in life,” Kirkland said. “We want an open playing field for everybody.”
For senior Licia Lamb, years of robotics competitions helped affirm what she wants to do with her life.
"I plan on going to college and getting a degree in mechanical engineering," Lamb said.
The top four teams from the Front Range BEST competition will move on to regional competition in Fort Smith, Arkansas the first week of December.
In all, about 180 students from Colorado schools will compete over three days in Arkansas. If you’d like to help fund their travel, visit: http://bit.ly/2f55fiU