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  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Lindley Elementary team competes during Saturday's VEX IQ Robotics Competition at Weisser Park Elementary School. Winners from the competition advanced to state.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Guests enjoy watching teams compete during the VEX IQ Robotics Competition at Weisser Park Elementary School on Saturday February 3, 2018. VIDEO  

Sunday, February 04, 2018 1:00 am

Elementary students compete to robotic supremacy

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne's Weisser Park Elementary School gym on Saturday became a competition ring – well, actually several rectangular competition grids – for students' robots.

And not of the Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em variety. That would be just sooooo 1960s.

These robots were mostly square or rectangular boxes with a claw-and-lift apparatus on the front. That feature helped them get through several pre-appointed tasks involving lifting, stacking, dropping and otherwise manipulating objects on command.

Twenty-nine teams from a dozen schools from as far away as Marion and Elkhart competed – and sometimes cooperated – to advance into state and, perhaps, international competition, said Chris Low, a fourth-grade Weisser teacher.

Low coordinated the event, the first VEX IQ Ringmaster Challenge competition at Weisser. The event attracted about 150 students from kindergarten through sixth grade – and about 300 parents, siblings and other onlookers who packed the bleachers while the floor swarmed with competitors.

“We don't allow teachers, parents or coaches to touch robots,” Low said. “(The students) need to build 'em, run 'em, and when they break, fix 'em.”

The two teams who finished first in a cooperative challenge advanced to state competition – the RoboRingStackerz and the Shamrocks2, both from North Liberty Elementary School in North Liberty.

Also moving on to state is the winner of an Excellence Award – the Eagles from Maplewood Elementary School in Fort Wayne.

The state competition will take place March 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. 

Micah Barcalow, a fourth-grade Weisser Park teacher, said the competition is another way for students to exercise creativity. The school fielded five Koala Bots teams.

He said Weisser Park this year changed from a fine-arts magnet school to one with a STEAM emphasis – offering enrichment in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Barcalow said he's not only a teacher – he's also a Weisser parent. His so,n Henry, is into robots but also the visual arts.

Henry likes animation and video game design, and has branched out into music by taking piano and ukulele lessons, his father said.

“We have a lot of things going on at Weisser – mostly arts, but for some kids this is more appealing,” Barcalow said of the robotics event.

“I think it's really cool,” he added. “I think it's fun for Henry to have lots of opportunities for him.”   

rsalter@jg.net