TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Kindergarten through 12th-grade students from across the state will put their computer programming skills to the test at the annual Alabama Robotics Competition Saturday, April 7.
The eighth annual competition, hosted by the computer science department of the UA College of Engineering, will take place at the Bryant Conference Center. There are 60 teams made up of 257 students competing from 38 schools across Alabama.
“The key objective is to have an affordable contest that focuses on the programming of robots, rather than their assembly,” said Dr. Jeff Gray, UA professor of computer science. “Our main goal is that they have fun. We want the students to experience the collaboration of teammates and gain a sense of accomplishment for the problems that they are able to solve.”
The contest features a series of obstacle courses that must be navigated by each teams’ programmed robot over a three-hour period. Students are allowed to use their choice of any robotics platform and program language. Teams consist of between two and five participants across all grade levels from elementary to high school.
Awards for the contest will be given by age division with elementary, middle and high school categories. More than $5,500 in prizes and awards will be given to the top four teams in each division.
“The contest started in 2011 with just 30 students in the Shelby Hall Rotunda,” Gray said. “We outgrew Shelby by our second year. The expansion of the contest led to the need to have additional parallel activities during the day for teachers and family.”
Gray expects 300 to 350 parents and teachers in attendance. The schedule for the day begins with check-in at 9:30 a.m. followed by the keynote speech by Dr. Kenneth Ricks, UA associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. The competition begins at approximately noon and will last for three hours. An awards presentation will take place at 3 p.m.
The schools registered to participate are Alabama School of Fine Arts, Allen Thornton Career Technical Center, Barkley Bridge Elementary, Berry Middle, Bryant Junior High, Crestline Elementary, EPIC Elementary School, F.E. Burleson Elementary, Hale County College & Career Academy, Hartselle High, JE Williams Boys and Girls Club, Liberty Middle, McLaughlin Homeschool, Mountain Brook Elementary/Brookwood Forest, Muscle Shoals Career Academy, Muscle Shoals Middle, Northridge High, Northside Christian, Oxford Middle, Prattville Park Robotics, Prattville Polkabots, Riverhill, Rocky Ridge Elementary, Russellville Elementary, Shades Mountain Elementary, Spain Park High, Stanhope Elmore High, The Hillsboro School, Trace Crossings Elementary, Trinity Presbyterian School (High), Trinity Presbyterian School (Middle), Tuscaloosa Gateway, Verner Elementary, Vestavia Hills Elementary, Cahaba Heights, Vestavia Hills Elementary Central, Walnut Grove Elementary, Whitesburg Christian Academy and Williams P8 School.