Building STEM Skills
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education is the focus of much discussion these days. Jobs in STEM fields are plentiful and lucrative, but the number of students interested in these careers is not keeping up with demand. This is especially true for women and people of color.
TCEA’s robotics contests give students the opportunity to develop STEM skills with hands-on, collaborative projects. Students from elementary (Intermediate) and secondary (Advanced) schools design, collaborate, plan, redesign, construct, create, assemble, invent, reinvent, write, present, and compete to see who has developed a winning robot.
There are two distinct categories in the TCEA Robotics Contest. The Arena competition is a prescribed problem contest where students program their robot to accomplish a variety of tasks. The Inventions competition is open-ended; students choose a real-world problem and create a robotic solution. They use marketing, programming, writing, constructing, and presentation skills as part of this competition.
Whether your team will be competing in Arena or Inventions, all participants must read and abide by the official rules.
Starting a Robotics Program
Robotics is an invaluable resource for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. It also develops critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving, along with other 21st century skills such as creativity, imagination, curiosity, and innovation. A curriculum that includes robotics provides students with the ability to take an active role in their own learning and forms a necessary foundation for their lives in the ever-changing world.
Become a Robotics Sponsor
A sponsor provides students with a learning space to build and program, creates a support system, secures funding for equipment and registration fees, and transports students to contests. Sponsors are usually educators who teach a class, have an afterschool program, or manage a Saturday club.
A church, community organization, and the Girl/Boy Scouts are welcome to participate in the TCEA Robotics Contest; however, a sponsor is required to be a member of TCEA. TCEA membership is $49 for a full year.
Equipment – You will need one LEGO or VEX IQ set for every team. Each platform has additional kits for expansion.
Software – Both platforms provide the necessary software for programming the robots.
Technology – There should be one device per team (chromebook, computer, or tablet).
Equipment Storage and Organization
Storage – If your kits do not come with storage options, this may be something you want to consider. Store your robots in a covered tub, especially if you are short on space, as containers can be stacked on top of each other.
Organization – You should number or color code your robotics sets with a permanent marker for team organization and identification purposes. Colored electrical tape or colored coding labels (dot shaped) work well for labeling purposes.
Building Elements – Thingamabobs, whatchamacallits, and doohickeys are not names anyone should be using when referring to their kit’s building pieces. Learning the proper names of the 500+ pieces you find in a robotics set would be a challenge, but the students should know the most commonly used parts.
Practice Area – Don’t forget you will need a space large enough to run robot challenges or practice for competition. Finally, you will need to think about storage for your equipment when your room is used for classroom instruction.
TCEA Robotics Area and State Contests
For those in education, a new year begins each August rather than January. Robotics sponsors unlock cabinets, dust off robotics kits, and plug in the bricks. Back to school for thousands of students means brainstorming a new robotics invention or examining the new arena challenge.
Each year TCEA holds 21 area (regional) contests around the Lone Star State and the island of Guam. There are two divisions based on grade level. 4th-8th grade are designated Intermediate and 8th-12th grade are Advanced. Teams composed of students from 6th-8th grades may compete at the advanced level if they so desire. Each area will have teams advance to the State Contest in the spring, which is held in central Texas.
- Determine Your Area – The contest you participate in depends on which Area you belong to. To determine your area, find out which ESC you belong to. Your area number correlates with your ESC number.
- Become a Member – The team sponsor must have an active TCEA membership for the duration of your contest season. Membership is $49.
- Determine the Contest and Division – Students have the choice of competing in the Arena Contest or the Inventions Contest. Like apples and oranges, the two cannot really be compared.
- Contact Katie Treat to register your team for TCEA Robotics Contests.
512 450 5404
Still Have Questions?
Go to our Frequently Asked Questions page to get the latest information about the upcoming TCEA Robotics Contests.