Summit School District hosts first robotics competition |

Summit School District hosts first robotics competition

Summit School District students are taking big steps into the future. The district recently introduced robotics as a course offering at the middle school and most elementary schools, and on Wednesday hosted its first robotics competition for students.

Robotics was introduced as part of the district’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program this year. The offering is seen as a great way to get kids engaged in a fun activity while getting a serious education on what may very well be one of America’s biggest industries in the future.

On Wednesday, in association with Vex Robotics, the district hosted the first scrimmage in the High Country between robotics teams from four of Summit’s elementary schools (Breckenridge and Silverthorne elementary schools are expected to field teams next year) and Summit Middle School.

In the scrimmage, teams used robots that they programmed and built themselves to lift and deposit objects around a playing field, receiving points when they place objects in score boxes, with additional points if they manage to get their robots to park properly at the end of the round. Bonus points were given if students managed to stack the objects on top of each other or get the robots to use their claw to lift themselves up and hang on parallel bars above the field.

Peder Hanson, the STEM coordinator for Summit schools, said that the district was not expecting to host a scrimmage this year, as it usually takes time to get students and teachers trained in how to build and use the robots in competition. As it turns out, the sheer excitement and enthusiasm for the program sped things up quite a bit.

“The kids are super excited, we didn’t expect to get a scrimmage started so soon,” Hanson said. “We’ve already had kids who have been invited to state competitions. The teachers are super excited, and when they’re excited the students are excited.”

Hanson said that robotics was a very good way to teach STEM principles to students.

“Robotics has a lot of things ingrained into it, especially in competition,” Hanson said. “Kids are learning teamwork, coding, math, programming, problem solving; all of them are essential skills in the 21st century.”

Fifth grader Tobias Wineland was among the competitors on Wednesday. Wineland, who was the primary driver for his team, said robotics seemed like a natural fit for his skill set.

“I got into robotics because I’m really good at driving, and good at learning technology and building things,” Wineland said. “I’m learning how to connect motors and stuff. It’s very fun.”

Brenna Gardner, a parent of fifth grader Grace — who was far too absorbed in the competition to speak to the Summit Daily — said her daughter was very enthusiastic about the competition, especially because she was able to use science and technology skills in the real world.

“I think STEM programming is of utmost importance in the education realm,” Gardner said. “Technology is moving so fast, and we need to make sure kids are current on what’s going on. She’s been coding since kindergarten, and she hasn’t been able to really use those skills in the real world until now.”

Given the great initial reaction to robotics, Hanson anticipated that the subject will become very popular across the High Country.

“Thanks to our awesome coaches and programming people, we are rolling forward with this, and it is going to just get bigger,” Hanson said. “We’re talking about getting other districts involved and setting up a mountain region competition. It is great to be able to provide that programming in rural Colorado communities like ours.”

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