Technology will meet nature as the Parkland once again hosts the annual Robot and Technology from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Mineral Area College’s Bob Sechrest Field House in Park Hills.
Young people between the ages of 8 and 18 can participate in Robofest or VEX robotics team competitions at the free event which is celebrating its sixth year.
According to Ann Boes, robotics expo/4-H Lab: Revolution founder and director, the event combines a high-energy competition with a technology expo.
“The 2017 Robot and Technology Expo is an opportunity for youth to demonstrate their knowledge and celebrate their accomplishments,” Boes said. “The event provides participants with lots of interaction along with shared interests in robotics, programming and the latest technological advancements. It really is a full day of robot fun for the entire family. There are many different robot demonstrations and hands-on activities, two exciting robot competitions — and this year we’ve even set up a special young children’s area with robots and coding activities for children as young as 4.“
In both of the team competitions, robots compete on playing fields by engaging in a specified game. This year’s Robofest game is RoboHit and the VEX Robotics Competition game is Starstruck.
“The primary difference between the two robotics competition types is that VEX is played on a large 12 x 12 foot field with pairs of robots competing against each other and Robofest has a single robot competing on a small field for points,” Boes said. “This year, the Robofest robots have to run the bases, push various items off the field, and hit a ping pong ball over a goal. The VEX game requires that robots launch or push star-shaped game pieces and large heavy cubes onto the other side of the field that are blocked by a large fence in the middle of the field. Teams can also hang their robot off the ground for maximum points at the end of the game.”
Team members in either competition can be school-sponsored or from local 4-H clubs and home-school associations, as well as from individual families. The Robofest competition, which was added to the Robot and Technology Expo last year, is based on the national event developed by Lawrence Technological University in Michigan.
“We currently have seven teams registered for Robofest and 48 teams registered for VEX — with more on the wait list,” Boes said. “One team is coming from Arkansas, several are from Illinois and the rest are local and from the greater St. Louis area.”
Boes noted that teams from North County, West County, Central, Potosi, Arcadia Valley and Ste Genevieve are participating.
“Somebody attending the event for the first time may hear lots of cheering around the robot playing fields, especially as the day-long competitions come down to the final rounds,” she said. “However, all the noise and attention should not let anyone think the expo is only about competition robots. This year, as in the past five, will include many technology-based workshops and exhibits offered at no cost to the general public.”
“Little Bits” electronic workshop will be provided by Arch Reactor Hacker Space. Makey-Makey demonstrations, Arduino and Scratch programming workshops will be offered by various members of Lab:Revolution. Workshops on video production techniques with Adobe After Effects and game-making with Bloxels will be presented by young people who are well experienced in the craft.
Some of the exhibitors are Zagros Robotics with a RaspberryPi play area and line following robots, HAB Education high altitude balloon program, Boeing, which is bringing an exciting Virtual Reality demo, Rippl3D Wind Turbine 3-D Printing challenge, industrial robot and vision system demonstrations by HTE Technologies, and the United States Army’s robots which will strutting their stuff, as well.
The 2017 Expo is made possible by Lab: Revolution the 4-H Technology Playground and Makerspace, Mineral Area College, SRG Global, US Tool Group, TG Missouri, Piramal Glass, Plummers Ace Hardware, Rippl3D, and First State Community Bank. Additional volunteers are needed.
Viewing space is limited so try to arrive early. Team check-in time begins at 7:30 a.m. and the opening ceremony is at 8:45 a.m. Competition starts at 9 a.m. and will continue until about 4:30 p.m. Finals are expected to start around 3:30 p.m. Demonstrations, programming, build areas and the hands-on activities will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Awards will be given throughout the day, with the final awards presented at 4:30 p.m.
More information is available by visiting the event website at www.tinyurl.com/2017RoboTechnoExpo or indirectly at www.labrevo.org. Boes can be reached at Annboes2007@gmail.com or by calling 573-327-2009.
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com