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Wheat MS Technology Trio Among Honorees in Robotics Competition

                A trio of Wheat Middle School eighth graders came away with honors—for their robotics skills and for their outstanding teamwork—in the Texas FIRST Tech Challenge Tournament.

                Ezekiel Bowles, Giovanni Rodriguez and Matthew Schlotzhaur finished eighth out of 14 teams in programming, and were the second-place recipient of the Motivate Award for the passion and professionalism they displayed. This is the second year the Wheat robotics program has been represented in a FIRST Tech Challenge competition.

Each Tech Challenge team had to build a robot using metal bars, gears and motors—without the aid of instructions. The students had to rely on their own creativity, knowledge and skills, and experience in building their robot—then programming it. The final hurdle in the contest had the teams operating their creations, which they placed in a 12-foot x 12-foot “arena,” where they had to complete a series of specified tasks. Judged assessed each team based on their performance in taking their robots through the paces.

                “We are very proud of these students for being strong competitors in this advanced robotics competition,” Wheat robotics teacher Gwenda Davis said. “But to also come away with recognition for reflecting ‘gracious professionalism’ in their work together and with fellow competitors brings a lot of honor to our program and our school.”

                “In receiving this award, our team is viewed as ambassadors for the FIRST Tech Challenge program,” Davis said. “This competition challenges and showcases the technical skills of students while also emphasizing sportsmanship, collaboration and respect for others, which are important factors in the FIRST philosophy. We want our students to learn, develop leadership skills—and to have fun as they compete. To know that our Wheat students stood out in motivating others to embrace the FIRST culture is wonderful.”

                Members of the WMS team cited various reasons for their choice to compete and for their interest in robotics and technology. Beginning in fourth grade, CISD students are introduced to coding, design and programming in the use of LEGO robotics kits through the district’s STEAM Fridays initiative. They can continue their studies in middle school in choosing robotics as an elective. In high school, STEM Engineering, offered through the Career and Technical Education program, includes the design, development and programming of robots and drones.

                “I have always liked robots,” Bowles said. “Ms. Davis is a good teacher. I like using LEGOs and working with the materials and things we used in this competition. I am a good programmer and hope to continue with the robotics program.”

                “I want to be a mechanical engineer and build my dream car,” Rodriguez said. “Those two things inspired me in making our robot.”

                Schlotzhaur enjoyed the competitive aspects of the event, in testing the team’s skills and their robot design against other creations.

                “I like the fact that I got to compete with my friends and with other people,” said the 13-year-old. “I also liked that we kept trying, even after we had failed on a few things.”

                Wheat robotics students will be back in competition on February 5 as they are among the teams registered for the FIRST Lego League Regional Qualifier taking place at Hillsboro Junior High School.

                This Saturday, Cleburne ISD will be hosting a FIRST LEGO League Challenge Regional Qualifier in the Jeff D. Cody Arena involving 36 public, private and home school and community teams from throughout north Texas.