By Zhe “Tom” Yuan
Robotics competitions allow middle-school students to apply their hobbies and interests to real-world scenarios. Whether you’re a teacher who wants to inspire your students’ academic passion or a parent who wishes to help your child develop more interest in STEM, here are three robotics competitions you can introduce to middle schoolers to help improve their academic and life skills.
1. FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge
The FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge is a competition for grades 4-8 students who assemble their own teams to design, build and program an autonomous robot using SPIKE Prime technology. The students will be able to put STEM concepts into practice and learn about team collaboration throughout the process. This competition is a low-stress and friendly match that helps middle schoolers explore their own passion in the field of engineering and physics. The FIRST® LEGO® League Challenges take place around the world. You simply apply on the website in your local region to have your students compete in this inclusive and educational competition.
2. Regional Robotics
Another fun competition is hosted by the Regional Autonomous Robotics Circuit (RARC), which brings the game home and helps your students compete in a safe and familiar location. The RARC CYBER contest is a virtual cybersecurity game in a “capture the flag” format. This competition will provide sufficient supplies and sophisticated guidance to help competitors engage in a fair and educational match.
The location is determined by the middle school divisions that host a RARC-sponsored robotic competition. The purpose of the competition is to help middle-school students develop the ability to collaborate, critically think, and problem solve in a STEM environment. Moreover, hosting events in the local region will give many students the opportunity to explore without extra spending and in a friendly and inclusive environment.
3. Vex Robotics
Finally, if your students are enthusiastic about robotics and love the spirit of the competition, VEX Robotic competition will offer a range of challenges for competitors to solve. VEX hosts global events, where students can simply stay at home and participate in an exciting journey of robotic competition. Middle-school students can sign up as pairs to win a prize by competing in the 2023 competition, then “spinning” off where individuals need to complete the objectives in one minute. The competition aims to help students develop their virtual skills, such as coding and online collaboration.
In addition to this competition, VEX offers several other challenges such as “Robot Skill Challenges,” by completely assembling a robot in a limited time, or “VEX AI Competition,” where they use machine learning strategies to compete with each other. If those sound like your students, definitely sign them up!
Robotic competition has become an innovative educational method to help middle school students seek their own learning method and apply conceptual knowledge to solve real-world problems.
To align with a better education system, NSTEM’s chapters aim to improve students’ learning experiences by promoting a robust, interdisciplinary, hands-on, project-based learning approach, helping students gain a deeper understanding of real-world problems while exposing them to potential career interests.
Do you want more resources on the topic of robotics competitions? NSTEM’s vast resources database provides thousands of STEM resources that are searchable by category, school level and state. This comprehensive library includes info on enrichment activities, curricula, internships, scholarships and more. Check out a free sampling here. Or get an NSTEM membership today to unlock the complete list.
Middle school is where students are transformed, entering as children and emerging as young adults. Project-based learning enrichment helps students connect the dots between STEM and real life, making math and science relevant for them, keeping them engaged and interested. With a meaningful middle school experience, students are far more likely to focus on STEM disciplines in high school and beyond. To start your 6-8, middle school chapter of the National STEM Honor Society, click here.