Last week was a loooong one, so when Laurie Barcaskey of Leading Marks called up and invited me to join her at the BotsIQ finals I jumped at the chance to escape the office for a day. Late Friday morning I found myself headed down I79 towards California University of Pennsylvania, the home of the BotsIQ Finals.
With safety glasses and a VIP Guest pass in hand, I got a tour of the pit populated with teams and their bots, the welding/grinding area, the safety inspection checkpoint, and a close up look at the actual arenas. I also got a first hand look at the binders the students produce prior to competition. Knowing I was curious about the process Laurie gave me the opportunity to review a binder for one of the teams, so I grabbed one from the large pile of binders still needing attention and got to work. I discovered that binders provided a pretty interesting snapshot of the teams and the whole process since the binders include financial, technical, and student experience information. The review process is pretty thorough too. It uses a multi-point review sheet for each section which scores elements such as content, adherence to the requirements listed and even grammar.
When you consider all the work these kids do, the process is pretty amazing. More than simply building a battle bot, the finals mark the completion of many months of work that goes beyond gaining the requisite engineering and practical skills. The BotsIQ program includes opportunities to learn about fundraising, budgeting, team work, business and technical writing. All of these skills will undoubtedly aid students as they either move to skilled jobs and/or further education after high school.
On a personal note, the vibe and enthusiasm I sensed at the finals was heartening too. It reminded me of the enthusiasm and determination I see from my son’s high school marching band, where I serve as the Lead Band Photographer. Here were a bunch of kids working together to learn useful skills, be part of a successful team and do something they enjoy. The gallery below shows pictures I took during my tour.
The BotsIQ program always needs volunteers to help run it…what are you doing next spring? I think I will plan on helping at the BotsIQ.