Middle school students compete in robotics competition

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Local middle school students got the chance to show off their robotic-making skills at a competition Saturday.

You don’t see autonomous robots making their way through an obstacle course every day, but Saturday, middle schoolers were the brains behind what made the robots move at DeLong Middle School; Blugold Beginnings Robotics is the program behind that happening.

Eighth grade student Meg Miller says it’s a fun, challenging experience.

“At first, I thought it would just be lots of fun with friends and just to be able to create a robot, but then once I got more into it, it really reflects on real world things because over time, there’s going to be more electronic stuff,” Miller said.

The kids involved get into the competition. And it’s a challenge for them; they have to use their brain instead of brawn.

“It’s just like a basketball game, only they’re using their brains,” Jodi Thesing-Ritter, the Executive Director for UW-Eau Claire’s Diversity and Inclusion program, said. “They’re working together as a team, they’re developing critical thinking/problem solving skills, and they’re learning how to communicate while learning technology. It’s pretty amazing.”

UW-Eau Claire students mentor the middle schoolers and say it’s a great way to explore outside the classroom.

“It’s very fun,” Catherine Wieland, a sophomore at UW-Eau Claire and a mentor for the students, said. “I think it’s very rewarding. We get to work with kids and they get to experience STEM, robotics building. They get to expand on their creativity.”

“I think it teaches them ingenuity and creativity along with teamwork,” Samantha Reiter, a UW-Eau Claire sophomore and mentor, said. “It increases intelligence outside the classroom.”

Thesing-Ritter says the robotics club gives kids, who might be at a disadvantage, opportunities they need to succeed.

“We’re really looking to increase our literacy in science, technology, engineering, and math to close the opportunity gap so girls, low income, and kids of color are all having access to opportunities,” Thesing-Ritter said. “This robotics club is one of our ways to do that.”

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