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Robotics programs building interest, skills
Three schools take part in world championship
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Forsyth County News


Local students from nearly all directions -- North, South and West Forsyth high schools -- recently took on the world at the 2011 Vex Robotics World Championship.

“We were pleased as a young robotics team to make it to a world level and to be competitive,” said Nick Crowder, robotics coach at South Forsyth.

“We’ve been there once, now let’s see how much better we can do ... we’re already planning and building for next year’s competition.”

South and West Forsyth each took three teams to the event, which was held in Orlando. North Forsyth robotics coach Jodie Marshall brought two teams.

One of Marshall’s squads made it to the quarterfinals, where it placed 20th.

The team was one of just two from Georgia to advance that far.

“It was pretty exciting,” said Luke Clark, a North Forsyth junior who competed in the quarterfinals. “We’re hoping to keep moving up every year.”

Clark, who also participated in the world competition last year, said he’s excited to spend his senior year working on a robot for the 2012 competition.

“I actually want to get into mechanical or robotics engineering, so this is just something to get me ready for that.”

Career preparation is why most students stay involved in robotics, said David Johnson, West Forsyth coach.

First-year students are exploring, but the ones that come back for a second or third year almost always end up pursuing some sort of future in engineering.

“We’re not trying to make engineers out of them, but we are trying to expose them to the opportunities, get them excited about the career path and give them some tools to ensure their success,” he said.

More than 500 teams competed at the championship. Students hailed from 16 different countries, including China, New Zealand and Mexico. 

Marshall said getting to interact with students from so many different places was a highlight for her teams.

“It was such an incredible experience ... seeing the kids interacting with them and seeing their robots and how they built them and conversing with their peers from all over,” she said.

As is the case at the other local schools, North Forsyth's robotics program is relatively new.

Marshall, who has been the coach for all three years, is already seeing results.

“You can see improvements in their science scores, their math scores, it just makes them a well-rounded student,” she said.

“It’s the best way to teach them all aspects of engineering and they’re engaged the entire time they’re working on their robots.”