How can we better engage our students?  How do we make the lessons learned lasting?  The staff at Bossier Parish Schools, SciPort: Louisiana’s Science Center, and the Cyber Innovation Center have teamed up to answer these questions and more!

“The key is to show students why the things they learn in the classroom are important and relevant. In other words, provide students context for the content,” said G.B. Cazes, Vice President of the Cyber Innovation Center. “The Regional Autonomous Robotics Circuit (RARC) accomplishes just that.”

Over the past nine months, students have prepared and competed in a series of challenges that required critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills. On Saturday, May 5, students were put to the ultimate test at the RARC, Competition IV. The day of competition was actually a series of three events. First, teams constructed a robot that autonomously found its way through a complex maze. Second, teams had 30 minutes to modify their robots to detect oncoming threats and then engaged those threats once they broke a threshold. Lastly, students were given a “box of parts” and required to build a mechanism to move cargo from one point to another while overcoming obstacles. “Participating in RARC and working with robotics has helped me understand science and math, specifically with its uses in daily life,” said Ashley Hollis from Haughton High School. “I made new friends and get a feeling of teamwork. I am very proud of my team; it’s our first year to compete and we have learned so much.”

To make things really tough, students were not aware of the challenges they were going to face when they arrived at the competition. Each team did receive hints regarding the three mystery challenges prior to Saturday’s event but specifics were withheld. “By requiring students to work under strict time constraints, they had to focus and rely on their teammates. These conditions are similar to what they’ll face in the real world,” said Henry Mejia, STEM Coordinator for Bossier Parish Schools.

“When my team is working with robots we learn a lot about circumferences and distance. Preparing for RARC has helped me work better with others and make more friends,” explained Bernard Dodson from Greenacres Middle School.

Chase Bounds from Central Park Elementary said, “RARC has helped me in my math class because I use the same calculations on our robot as we do in math. I get bored easily and this stuff never bores me. I love how I get to be with my friends at school and on the weekend playing with robots!”

After an intense day of competitions, the teams were anxious to see which schools were to be named RARC’s Competition IV winners and the overall RARC grand champions. Competition IV winners were awarded based on their performance and accuracy during the challenges. Stockwell Elementary-Team 4 placed first in the elementary division. Stockwell Elementary-Team 5 was awarded second place with Stockwell Elementary-Team 1 placing third. In the middle school division, Benton Middle School-Tigers 2 placed first with Ridgewood Middle School-Team 1 placing second and Rusheon Middle School-Rusheon Robotics earning third place. Southwood High School-Southwood Blue won first in the high school division. Parkway High School-Parkway Panthers won second place and Haughton High School–H-Team placed third.

The overall RARC grand champions were named based on the accumulation of points earned per team from all four competitions. If schools competed with more than one team, each team’s score was averaged together for the overall placement. Central Park Elementary emerged as the elementary grand champions. Benton Middle School became the grand champions of the middle school division, and the high school division grand champion was Parkway High School. All first, second and third place teams were awarded trophies, technology awards for their schools, and a pizza party provided by the Cyber Innovation Center.