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Robotics is on the Rise in Snoqualmie Valley Schools


Robotics activities have expanded significantly this year throughout the District, and interest among Snoqualmie Valley students continues to grow.

At Mount Si High School, participation in the Robotics Club has doubled, going from 20+ students last year to approximately 45. There are now three MSHS teams competing in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), competition open to grades 7-12. Mount Si recently hosted two regional contests at the Mount Si Freshman Campus with teams from schools across King County. Below, read the Valley Record story for a great account of the teams’ preparations for their latest event on December 10, in which Mount Si teams finished 2nd, 4th and 5th out of 14 teams. There is one more regional event January 14 in Everett to determine which teams will qualify for the state competition this spring. Good luck Wildcats!

There are also seven teams of Snoqualmie Valley middle school and elementary students participating in the FIRST Lego League (FLL), which is designed for grades 4-8. Approximately 65 students comprise teams from Twin Falls Middle School, Chief Kanim Middle School, Snoqualmie Elementary, Timber Ridge Elementary and Cascade View Elementary. Plus, another 15-20 students participate in club activities but prefer not to compete at events. Due to growing interest from younger siblings, parents are also planning to start First Lego League Junior activities, for ages 6-10, in the late winter or spring.
 
The number of girls participating in robotics has increased significantly as well this year, by nearly 25%. To further encourage participation, Mount Si High School Computer Science Teacher and Robotics Advisor Kyle Warren is hoping to involve girls from the MSHS teams to join him on visits to other schools to help spark interest.

Another area of growth has been in mentor/coach support for the robotics activities. School-based Robotics Clubs have 15+ regular volunteers/mentors each, who contribute approximately 3-6 hours a week. Parent Ram Rathnam, who is an instrumental and enthusiastic robotics volunteer, explained, “This is phenomenal community support and collaboration between the District and the parent volunteers. These mentors, with the help of educators such as Mr. Warren and Mrs. Raja, are making a big difference in students’ interests and passions.”

For more information about robotics activities in local schools, please contact teachers Kyle Warren (warrenk@svsd410.org) at MSHS, or Teri Raja (rajat@svsd410.org) at SES.
 
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In the News: Mount Si Robotics doubles team size, hosts second event of the season
Click on the headline for the Valley Record article and photos by Evan Pappas. Article is excerpted below.
As computer science and engineering continue to become more important in our society, interest in these fields has grown in schools across the country, including the Snoqualmie Valley. That growth can be seen in this year’s Mount Si High School robotics team, which was a single group of 15 students in the last school year and has grown to encompass more than 30 students on three teams.

The Mount Si teams hosted the second of three district tournaments on Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Mount Si High School Freshman Campus, where they took second, fourth and fifth places out of 14 total teams at the event. The Mount Si teams are now ranked at second, third and fifth in the league.

Mount Si Robotics, led by Kyle Warren, head coach and computer science and robotics instructor, builds robots designed to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge tournament series, a nationwide robotics engineering and design competition.

Last year, the Mount Si team qualified for state competition. With that success, as well as a growing interest in students coming up from the middle school level, registrations for the team jumped. Warren and the other advisors decided to break the teams up and assign roles for each of the teams to most efficiently develop and construct a robot for a tournament.

“We asked students ‘who is interested in being a leader?’ We had them fill out applications, we reviewed them as the entire mentor group, and we picked three,” Warren said. “Then we let everybody decide what role on the teams they decided to be and to make an even distribution. People who were interested in software, we tried to fulfill that, people interested in design, mechanical construction, making sure everything was covered with a full breadth of responsibilities. That worked out, we have a really even mix of what students can do.”

The design of the robot is a chance for students to work together to solve a problem. In this case, that problem is the tournament itself. FIRST Tech develops variations on the challenges the robots must complete each year. The challenges have included lining up matching lights, pushing buttons, climbing ladders, and visual pattern recognition.

“Every year there is a brand new contest, but some of the elements from previous years come back around,” Warren said. For example he said this year’s returning element, beacon devices with buttons the robot must push, are more emphasized in the competition.

“There is also an element of image recognition with the phones that are part of the control system for the robots. That is a brand new element this year,” he said. “It’s a higher degree of difficulty, testing some of the tech on the robots. It hasn’t been used before. It’s really trying to push the students’ capabilities, but also teach real world applications and vision recognition.”

In addition to the growth in overall numbers to the program, Mount Si has seen a growth in the gender diversity of students joining. Warren said that he wants to see this trend continue by sparking interest in STEM activities across all genders in early education.

“It’s definitely a trend I want. It’s a constant question I am asking myself and the students,” he said. “Last year we had the pleasure of going to every single science fair at all of the elementary schools within the district, I am hoping I can get some of the girls this year to go and just build that interest in a younger age. Getting that attention captured, getting them into it and at least trying it out at a younger point in their lives, will help their involvement when they get here in high school.”

Kaley Hedrick, a freshman, said she joined because her brother was already on the team and inspired her to get into it.

“Girls haven’t always been into engineering, but as time progresses, more and more are getting interested, it’s great. It’s a great field to go into.” Hedrick said. “In this club, you are doing many things you didn’t think you could do before… meeting new friends, creating things, and thinking of things in new ways.”

The teams are now preparing for their third competition of the year on Jan. 14 in Everett, their last chance to qualify for state.

For more information on the FIRST Tech Challenge visit www.firstinspires.org.



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