Las Vegas Sun

September 24, 2018

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Student robotics teams from Southern Nevada shine at world championships

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A group of students from Southern Nevada recently competed at the world championships for robotics design.

A group of elementary and middle school students from Southern Nevada competed late last month at the world championships for robotics design.

Twenty-nine students from Greenspun Middle School and Nate Mack Elementary School formed five teams at the annual VEX Robotics World Championships in Louisville. They competed against students from around the world, including those from Africa, Asia and Europe.

One of the teams from Greenspun earned a world-championship in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics categories, beating out 1,500 other teams for the award.

“I can’t say enough about how hard our students worked and how well they did,” said Matt Christian, the Greenspun robotics teacher. “We were chosen as one of the best teams in the world.”

The teams qualified for the competition by winning the Nevada championships in February. Students worked in teams of seven and spent about four hours each week on their projects, starting at the beginning of the school year.

Elementary team teacher Casey Juliano said the schools typically only send one team annually to the competition. To qualify five this year was “incredible,” Juliano said.

First-time VEX competitor Jake Juliano joined the robotics team this year to follow his dream of working in computer programming. As part of his project, he developed programming for robots to assist doctors with surgery.

The local students competed and worked with middle school teams from Liberia, Egypt and Lebanon during the event.

“It was amazing to see how everybody was screaming and cheering and so supportive,” he said.

With dreams of becoming an engineer for Disney, sixth-grader Ella Drakulich said she fell in love with robotics after taking a technology class.

Drakulich and her teammates researched the effectiveness of robots as teachers, comparing them to humans in educating elementary school students. They found students learned more from the robots than a teacher, likely because the teacher was not as knowledgeable about the subjects being taught as the robots.

At the event, Drakulich’s team also worked alongside international students.

“It was a great bonding experience for us,” she said. “Because a lot of kids didn’t really know each other outside of the team. It was special.”