Organizers of the Robot and Technology Expo are gearing up for the seventh year of fun and learning for kids of all ages.
The expo will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 17 at Mineral Area College's Bob Sechrest Field House on the Park Hills campus.
Youth and their families have a chance to participate in robotic competitions, technology challenges and hands-on demonstrations. Anyone with an interest in technology is welcome to bring their family and explore the many offerings. There is no admission fee.
Once again, attendees will be able to observe VEX Robotics competitions for students in middle and high school. Students arrive at MAC each year to showcase their robot building and programming skills.
Ann Boes, event founder and director, also serves as director of the event's organizing group, 4-H Lab:Revolution.
Explaining that many technology-based workshops and exhibits are offered at no cost to the general public, she said, "We're excited to have some new quadcopters this year. People can come out and fly the quadcopters from the state 4-H office."
Boes also recommended experiencing the new Google Virtual Reality Experience for anyone wanting to add a little excitement to their life. In addition to the VEX robotics competition, there has also been a Robot Sumo Challenge added to this year's competitions.
This premier Mineral Area robotics and technology event has grown from a couple of robotic competitions and a few demonstrations into an event where a family can spend an entire day having fun.
For students who enjoy computer coding, there is a Scratch competition, as well as a Virtual NXT programming lab. There will also be plenty of hands-on activities for children as young as 3 years of age at the Lego and Robotix building areas.
Family members of all ages will find mind stimulating activities and demonstrations, as well, such as the Family and Friends Interactive Technology Challenge, Lego Build Competition, individual robot exhibitions, TED Talks mini-theater, 3D printing challenge, Arch Reactor Hackerspace, Robomo Robots and Zagros Robotics.
In past events, there have been as many as 48 teams from four states sign up for VEX, with the majority coming from Missouri. Competitors have to be flexible as every year the game changes. This year's game is called "In The Zone." The two teams place their robot in an arena where they complete a series of timed tasks that involves moving small plastic yellow cones to designated spots for various point values.
"Somebody attending the event for the first time may hear lots of cheering around the robot playing fields," Boes said. "All of the noise should not lead them to think that the expo is only about competition robots."
The robotics Education & Competition Foundation (RECF) is the non-profit organization that operates the competitions on behalf of VEX and other companies. More information is available at the RECF website.