Experience robotics in St. Vrain on March 9

Do you ever miss that sense of exploration and curiosity you had as a kid? If the answer is ‘yes,’ we have the event for you.

St. Vrain Valley Schools is hosting its first ever VEX Robotics Showcase from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 9. Open to the public, the event an evening of the same fun, hands-on robotics play, learning and experimentation that St. Vrain students relish day-in and day-out, in both class and extracurricular settings.

What: VEX Robotics Showcase

When: March 9 from 5:30-8:00 p.m.

Where: Boulder County Fairgrounds

Cost: $5 Adults | $3 Child/Student (includes spaghetti dinner)

Click here to register >>

“We wanted to create an experiential ‘thing,’ to close the gap between the student experience and everyone coming to the event – parents, community members and potential sponsors,” Axel Reitzig, Innovation Center robotics and computer science coordinator.

The evening, which includes a silent auction, is also a fundraiser to help St. Vrain’s elementary and middle school robotics teams participate in national and world championships, regardless of ability to pay, and to support existing and new programs.

In the four years since SVVSD received a federal Race to the Top grant, which expires this year, the robotics program has grown to include 25 schools – 400 percent growth. In the last three years, one or more teams have made it to world championships, Reitzig said.

SVVSD hosted 12 competitions this year. Six middle school teams are expected to compete in the U.S. Open Robotics Championship, April 4-5, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and six or seven elementary schools are expected to compete in VEX Worlds 2017, April 23-25, in Louisville, Kentucky.

“We want to showcase the education value – what are kids learning from doing this, and why is it worth investing in?” Reitzig said. “If I bought a car, and I tell you about it versus I take you for a ride in it, what is going to wow you more?”

Robotics, Reitzig said, teaches “hard skills” such as mechanical engineering, computer-aided design, and math – and is a gateway to computer programming. But equally important, he said, is also cultivates “soft skills” such as teamwork, problem-solving and the “authentic” confidence that comes from mastering challenges.

Three types of activity stations will be available, Reitzig said, representing different aspects of the robotics design and development process.

“Build” stations feature unassembled or partly-built robots to give people the experience of what it is like to actually build a robot, while at “Programming” stations, people can, with basic directions, start to use computer language.

Finally, “Drive” stations offer completed robots, remote-controlled Lego-like devices that folks can operate.

“We will have fields set up with game elements from this year’s and past year’s games, so people can see what it is like to compete the way the students do,” Reitzel said.

All that thinking and tinkering builds up an appetite, so bring friends and family for a delicious spaghetti dinner, included in the $5 admission fee, courtesy of Ragazzi Italian Grill of Longmont.

The Showcase is actively seeking individual, business and community sponsors.