High schoolers test mental mettle in tech challenge - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

High schoolers test mental mettle in tech challenge

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The competition was designed for the robots to take rings from one set of PVC pipe to another. The competition was designed for the robots to take rings from one set of PVC pipe to another.
SERGEANT BLUFF, Iowa (KTIV) -

You probably don't think of academic challenges, as team exercises. Two dozen teams from all over Siouxland, and Iowa, were out to prove that brains are just as important as braun.

Trace Chrisman has always been fascinated by machines.

"I've always been kind of mechanically-driven," said Trace Chrisman, a freshman at Sergeant Bluff-Luton. "As a child, I always liked to take things apart and see how they worked."

For this competition, Chrisman and his three freshmen teammates are putting their science knowledge to the test.

"They know how to build stuff a lot better, and we combine our talents to create something that works and looks pretty cool," said Chrisman.

They've been assembling and tweaking their robot to compete since September.

"It's an experience, working with the big next thing. This thing is compared to a Mars rover. So, it's interesting to get involved with that," said Dane Mogensen, a freshman at Sergeant Bluff-Luton.

In this rookie-heavy competition, groups participating for the second time have an early edge.

"The robot's been a work in progress, and a lot of trial and error, but we're getting involved with it," said Mogensen.

The goal of this competition is to get rings onto this rack. They get even more points, if they get three in a row, just like in tic-tac-toe.

There are five rounds of competition throughout the day. If the teams are unsatisfied with their scores in a given round, there's a break in between matches, where they can fix their robot or re-strategize.

"You don't know. We might think ours is awesome and then, they'll come in here and find out that there's a team here that just destroys ours," said Chrisman.

But even if they don't win, participants won't walk away empty-handed.

"Awards are completely independent of the competition. If their robot breaks down, they could still win an award," said Rebecca Whitaker, an organizer.

Teams can still advance on attitude.

"The big thing here is gracious professionalism. There's no one hot dog out there, we're doing it together," said Tami Chrisman, a leader for Pioneer Valley 4-H.

Winners will go to Iowa City for the state championships Feb. 22 and 23. The two teams that win there will advance to the World Championships in St. Louis, Mo., in April.

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