Robots Slug it Out at FAMU's Gaither Gym

Jan 30, 2017

Florida A&M University's Gaither Gym was the scene of ferocious competition on Saturday (1/28). But instead of basketball, the game was a form of volleyball. And the competitors weren't human players, but sophisticated robots built by high school students.

Robots made by high school students square off at the VEX EDR Regional Robotics Competition.
Credit Tom Flanigan

Jane McDonald was among the organizers of what was called the "VEX-EDR Regional Robotics Competiton"

"We have 16 teams from all over Northern Florida (with) quite a few from Tallahassee," she said as the teams slugged it out on a field of combat resembling miniature volleyball courts. "For most of them, this is the first time they've ever competed in this type of a competition."

Teams came from as far away as Leesburg, Florida. Caleb LeWare was spokesman for that town's team called the "Hunterz".

"The robot we brought is a backward dump-claw," he explained. "It will pick up the objects and throw them over the wall and make it into the far zone."

Dr. Chao Li, associate professor with FAMU's School of Architecture and Engineering Technology, which hosted the event, said there's a serious purpose underlying the fun.

"I think the robotics competition can stimulate the kids' interest in electronics and STEM disciplines," he opined, "STEM" meaning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

The top two teams from Saturday's competition will go on to the state finals in Orlando and that contest's winner proceeding to the national shootout later this year.