Chandler Teams Score Awards At STEM Tourney SanTan Sun News

Chandler Teams Score Awards At STEM Tourney

Chandler Teams Score Awards At STEM Tourney
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Two Chandler-based youth robotics teams are gearing up for a state tournament after dazzling judges with their technological savvy and teamwork at a competition at Intel Corporation.

A third Chandler-based team got its feet wet and made an impressive showing at the FIRST LEGO League Chandler Qualifier Nov. 17 at Intel’s campus on West Chandler Boulevard.

FIRST – an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – was founded in 1989 with the aim of inspiring young people’s interest and participation in technology and science.

About 140 students from teams in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale and other cities, demonstrated their skills and teamwork programming and designing robots, getting them to complete a mission and tackling a challenge they thought was important in space.

They built the robots ahead of time but had to maneuver them and give presentations in front of judges – experts who work at Arizona State University, Honeywell, Intel and other places. Students ages 8 to 14 competed in the tournament.

Big Bang, an all girls team that meets at the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA, earned the Best Robot Design award. Area 52, an all-boys team also based out of the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA, received the Best Core Values award.

Another Chandler-based team, Astrorobotics, which meets at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley’s Chandler Compadres Branch, also participated in the tournament.

Big Bang and Area 52 will go on to compete at the 2018 Arizona State Championship Tournament (Championship Tournament), an Arizona FIRST LEGO League tournament on Jan. 19 at ASU in Tempe.

Big Bang, Area 52 and Astrorobotics are three of the 13 teams supported by nonprofit organization, Education Empowers Inc., a neighborhood community of volunteers.

It promotes education for children and focuses on robotics, sustainability and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education to spark a passion for learning and discovery.

“All of our kids did really, really well and the Chandler teams that are going to state really did a great job,” said Anna Prakash, senior materials engineer at Intel and founder of Education Empowers Inc.

“It was a fantastic experience. I really have to thank Intel and all of their volunteers who came out on a Saturday and spent the entire Saturday making it a wonderful experience for the kids, just being around them; talking to them,” she added.

The teams competed in three areas: robot mission, research project and core values, Prakash said.

For the robot mission, students were judged on how they designed the robot and how they handled the topic of the year, which this time was “into orbit,” involving the challenges people face in exploring space, she said.

For the research project portion, each team chose a topic or challenge they believed was the most important one in space. One team picked lack of oxygen, while another one decided lack of water was the most pressing issue.

Teams made posters and prototypes to show how they came up with solutions to the problems.

In the “core values” category, students were evaluated on their “teamwork, innovation, having fun, discovery” and how “they incorporate these elements into everything they do,” Prakash said.

The coaches for Area 52 were Alan Tu of Intel and Mamadou Diatta of Syntax. Jenni Warren of American Airlines and Prakash of Intel mentored that team.

Big Bang’s coach was Robab Shakiba of Intel. The mentors for Big Bang were Sunita Utgikar of Intel, Hemangi Gaddu of Toyota and Prakash of Intel.

Elaina Ashton, Anna Prakash’s daughter, was the youth mentor for the Big Bang team.

The coaches for Astrorobotics were Abigail Agwai of Intel and Leon Ortega of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley’s Chandler Compadres Branch. Mentors for Astrorobotics were Suriya Ramalingam of Intel, Prakash of Intel and Rishik Bazaz of Intel.

While they did not win an award, Prakash said the rookie Astrorobotics team did “very well.”

“It’s a very nice learning experience for them,” she said. “Their goal was to come and enjoy the day and learn from other teams.”

Prakash said the competition in general “gives the children real-world experience.”

“That’s what we do every day when we come to work as engineers, we solve problems,” she said. “Working with teams and competing gives them wonderful real-world experience. When you start at an early age, it’s easier for them to transition to engineering jobs and other jobs that require any kind of problem solving.”

Linda Quian, public affairs manager for Intel, added, “Education in itself is important, and I think STEM education is, even more so, where the future of work is headed.

“We love to support initiatives like this. We have 10,000 employees in Arizona; more than 50 percent of them volunteer hundreds of thousands of hours in the community each year. We are so proud to be able to support the incredible employees who give back to the community in so many ways” including Prakash, she added.

Tommy Ashton and Keith Kagen

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