CONTACT: GEORGE MCCRORY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0012; fax (319) 384-0012
Release: May 7, 1999
Iowa high school students compete in national robotics
IOWA CITY, Iowa Iowa high school students recently
teamed with university and industry engineers to become "gladiators of technology"
as part of a nationwide robotics competition designed to stimulate interest
in science and technology.
Robots built by five teams of Iowa high school students
battled at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology)
Robotics Competition, held April 22 to 24 at Disney World's Epcot Center in
In this clash of robots and their student handlers, two
Iowa teams finished in the top 50 among the 207 teams from the U.S., Canada
and Puerto Rico. The Cedar Falls High School team finished in 28th place and
was led by the engineers from Doerfer Engineering and Deere & Co. The
Quad Cities team of Davenport West, Moline, and Sherrard high schools finished
in 49th place and were led by engineers from the Deere Technical Center and
the Genesis Systems Group.
The teams from nine high schools competed this year, with
many participating for the first time. Among first-year teams, the Cedar Falls
team placed third in the country and the Quad City team placed12th. All five
Iowa teams won qualifying matches, including Des Moines Central Campus High
School; Ames High School; and the Iowa City team with students from Iowa City
West, City, and Regina high schools.
"This is a remarkable performance for these teams, particularly
for the first-year teams. They faced many schools that have fielded teams
for the past seven years," said Jay Christensen-Szalanski, a UI professor
of management and organizations who is working with the UI John Pappajohn
Entrepreneurial Center to increase Iowa's representation at the national competition.
The students had about two months to build the remote-controlled
robots for the competition. In each round, students maneuvered their robots
across a 30-square-foot "battlefield," earning points for
robots raising pillow-like" floppies" up to heights of eight feet, moving
a wooden puck on rollers, or positioning the robots on top of a puck.
This year the national competition broke the record as
the largest student event ever hosted at EPCOT, with more than 20,000 participants
and spectators. Overall, Iowa ranked 14th in the nation in the number of teams
it sent to the national competition.
Several of Iowa's leading technological and manufacturing
corporations including Deere & Co., MCI WorldCom, Rockwell Collins, Compressor
Controls, Townsend Engineering, HON Industries, and Mid-American Energy provided
financial and technical expertise to assist state high schools in the national
robotics competition. In addition, UI engineering faculty assisted the Iowa
City team, Iowa State's engineers helped the Ames team, and University of
Northern Iowa aided the Cedar Falls team. All together, these companies and
universities together with many local businesses donated nearly $350,000 in
personnel, volunteers, and resources.
"This was a great example of businesses teaming up with
universities to help high school students learn first-hand how to apply many
of the mathematical and scientific principles they learn in classes to solving
a competitive technological problem," said Christensen-Szalanski.
The Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is interested
in doubling the number of teams Iowa sends to the nationals next year. The
Center is now focused on assisting community colleges to team-up with high
schools and local businesses for next year's competition, said Christensen-Szalanski.
"We think the combination of technical skills and
experience that the community colleges and their students can provide to the
high schools and local businesses is a perfect fit for this type of competition,"
For more information about participating in the next
FIRST robotics competition or if you would like to see some of the robots
in action, contact Christensen-Szalanski at the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial
Center at (319) 335-0260.