Students G.E.A.R. up for robotics


Ethan Pham, The Paisano

Kassandra Alanis

Ethan Pham, The Paisano
Ethan Pham, The Paisano

On April 2, 2016 in the Convocation Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio, a G.E.A.R. (Getting Excited about Robotics) competition was held in which 3rd-8th graders competed in their own divisions for the winning title.

The students spent 6 weeks preparing for the challenges that were going to be given to them. This year’s challenge was “Time Warp,” which was set in a laboratory devastated by an attempt to create a time machine. The competitors had to create a robot that could complete the mission objectives to retrieve artifacts that came through the vortex, deliver artifacts to the containment area, retrieve caps for vortices, shut down time circuits, remove debris from reactor, cap vortices and cap the reactor.

This robotics competition provides elementary and middle school students with an opportunity to explore science and engineering in a fun and safe environment. “It is very surprising and impressive how these young kids are being exposed to this technology at such a young age,” volunteer and senior mechanical engineer Jesus Camarillo said. “They are coming together to prove their ideas.”

G.E.A.R, operating in San Antonio since 2006, has been run by iTEC (The Interactive Technology Experience Center) since 2009. iTEC was established in 2007 for the purpose of introducing visitors to S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). iTEC seeks to be an inspiration to young people by creating an environment in which to explore and learn about the different fields of S.T.E.A.M. Their goal is to motivate young people to pursue S.T.E.A.M. -related careers by engaging them with interactive activities to build their skills in critical thinking, communication, leadership and overall self-confidence.

GEAR awarded many trophies that afternoon, but one team, the Flux Capacitors from Leal Middle school, won the first-place trophy in the middle school division.

“We’ve been doing this competition since 2010,” said Coach for the Flux Capacitors Gabriel Garcia. “In the beginning, we were almost at the end of the rankings list, but slowly throughout the years, we’ve made it to where we are now.”

During the competition, the students do everything; the coaches can not touch anything – or something to that extent.

“As a coach, I really don’t touch anything because it’s all them; we’ve been preparing for this since the beginning, so they know what they are doing by now,” Garcia said.

The on-site director/programming manager of iTEC, Roberta Luukkonen, was overall pleased with the outcome of the competition and all the hard work that was put into it.

“It is always exciting seeing all the kids get excited to be here,” Luukkonen said. “It was a lot of work coming into the competition and a lot of hours spent planning. But when it all comes down to the competition, it makes it all worthwhile when you see the kids dressed up; it is a very rewarding job for all of us who are with iTEC.”