Ready, set, robots!

CONTEST: Luis P. Untalan Middle School students, left, square off against B.P. Carbullido Elementary School students. Robots, which were manually built, were programmed to properly dispose of Lego blocks into bins. Dozens of students from public schools competed in the Texas Computer Education Association Lego Arena Competition on Jan. 19 at the Dusit Thani Guam Resort. Ruo Simion/The Guam Daily Post

On Jan. 19, the Guam Department of Education held its first Texas Computer Education Association Lego Arena Competition at the Dusit Thani Guam Resort.

This TCEA competition is an annual addition to the few competitions on Guam that offer students the opportunity to expand and show off their knowledge of and passion for science, technology, engineering and math robotics.

In his opening remarks, GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez described how the department aims to highlight the importance of STEM, particularly robotics. Which is why GDOE sent Leah Naholowaa, project director, and her team to observe TCEA’s 2018 national competition in Austin, Texas, and bring the competition to Guam for 2019.

In previous years, the TCEA has held regional competitions in 20 areas of Texas. This makes Guam the first and only region outside Texas to participate in the competition.

Every year, the competition is designed around a theme. This year’s theme is  "On the Factory Floor." Using a Lego Mindstorms Kit, teams were to design, build and program a robot that could theoretically be used on the factory floor of a toy company.

On a Saturday morning, students from all over the island were up and eager to participate in the competition for the ultimate prize.

During the preparation period, some students were nervous while others were distressed at their robots’ functionalities. With no outside communication with their coaches or parents during the competition, they had to act independently. The atmosphere was frenzied as students attempted to put the finishing touches on their robots. With cameras projecting their robots' actions on the big screens for all to see, the stakes were high.

Intermediate Division

The 16 intermediate teams were made up of students in fourth to eighth grade from schools such as Tamuning Elementary School, Astumbo Middle School and Saint Paul Christian School.

The margins between the teams’ scores weren’t so significant, but three teams came out on top. Inarajan Elementary School’s Flamin’ Robotics team placed third. In second place was F.B. Leon Guererro Middle School’s Flying Hawks team. The team in first place and advancing to TCEA’s National Intermediate competition in the spring was the Astumbo Dragonites from Astumbo Middle School.

Advanced Division

Teams that competed in the advanced division consisted of students from high schools and middle schools around the island.

After three rounds, Okkodo High School’s The Wise Dogs won first place, while F.B. Leon Guerrero Middle School’s Soaring Hawks took second place and George Washington High School’s Enginerds placed third.

The Wise Dogs, consisting of members Veronica Rose Obias, Rudy Cruz, Lord Mabalot and Darryl Mercado, were ecstatic as their hard work paid off.

“Last night, we were doing an all-nighter. We stayed up until 4,” said Darryl Mercado, a freshman from OHS.

The young programmer has taken an interest in robotics since he was in the seventh grade. For Mercado, joining these competitions has enabled him to meet and interact with new people from different schools, one of his favorite parts of the process.

Furthermore, the passionate 14-year-old encourages those who take an interest in robotics to seek opportunities that will allow them to assemble and program robots themselves.

“If you take a lot of interest into science or math or any subject that requires you to logically think, you should really join robotics," Mercado said.

As technology plays an increasing role in our daily lives, it is clear that the world needs future leaders and innovators to improve these advancements. With the robotics competition for students, Guam is one step closer.


The Scoop coordinator, Spots on The Rock columnist and Life documenter. Email: Follow Tihu on Twitter and Instagram at @tihualujan.

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