University Campus Hosts State League Robotics Event

February 15, 2016

Teens, parents, and mentors from 28 robotics teams rocked the Marion Bowman Activities Center Saturday, February 13, as Saint Leo University hosted the Florida statewide FIRST® Tech Challenge for the second consecutive year. Saint Leo’s University Campus is a convenient destination for teams that must come from all over Florida with carloads of teens, robots, ancillary equipment—and team costumes.

The teams and their robots (powered by Android technology, and about the size of large household plastic storage bins) compete on standardized playing fields. Timed matches test the design, programming, and construction quality of the high-tech gizmos. Team members naturally must cooperate with one another during construction and competition, but the collaboration is kicked up a notch at the competitions. There, teams are temporarily grouped with rivals to face off against temporary, opposing alliances. These matches and shifts go on all day. Through this manner of play, the teens hone both their technical aptitude and their people skills—attributes that will serve them well in college and in their careers.

Dr. William Lennox Jr., president of Saint Leo, was pleased to welcome the talented crowd, to encourage the players, and to share some of Saint Leo’s own special attributes, such as the Honors Program and mathematics major. Dr. Lennox also greeted several of the teams as they waited for their turns in competition (pictured) and got to hear about individual teams.

At the end of the day, top honors in the robotics challenge went to an alliance of three teams: Masquerade, from Middleton High School in Tampa (pictured); the Mechromancers from Hagerty High school in Oveido (near Orlando); and Tarpon Robotics from Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda (north of Ft. Myers). More information is posted at http://ftc.flfirst.org/.

Hosting the colorful robotics competition is just one of the ways Saint Leo, as a liberal arts institution, takes care to nourish interest in mathematics and science among pre-college students. Some other academic and outreach programs at University Campus include:

  • The ongoing, after-school Math Circle program, hosted weekly on Thursdays by Dr. Monika Kiss. The program is free and provides middle school and high school student hands-on activities to help them stay excited about mathematics. Contact monika.kiss@saintleo.edu.
  • A joint meeting that will bring lots of mathematicians—most of whom teach at the college level—to Saint Leo February 26 and 27. The meeting participants will be discussing teaching techniques and sharing interesting academic challenges for students. Undergraduates and graduate students are allowed to make presentations, too. The formal names of the groups are the Florida section of the Mathematical Association of America and the Florida Two-Year College Mathematics Association.
  • The anticipated return of a summer day camp for young girls who want to be introduced to robotics. The camp started last year under the direction of Dr. Kiss. More details will be released as plans are set.