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Robots Slug it Out at FAMU's Gaither Gym

Tom Flanigan

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.

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.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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