White House Science Fair Touts TETRIX® robotics

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President Barack Obama put members of the Rock N’ Roll Robots FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team in the company of world champion athletes by inviting them and several of their academic peers to the first White House Science Fair in October. The FTC robot uses LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education NXT with TETRIX® by Pitsco Education.

Members of the Rock N Roll Robots team proudly display their robot and related materials at the White House Science Fair on October 18, 2010. (Photos courtesy of Rock N Roll Robots Team)

I thought we ought to do the same thing for the winners of science fair and robotic contests and math competitions. Because often we don’t give these victories the attention that they deserve.

Just when they thought it couldn’t get any better, members of the Rock N’ Roll Robots team from Los Angeles, California, had the experience of a lifetime when their efforts were recognized by the President of the United States during the first White House Science Fair.

President Barack Obama put members of the Rock N’ Roll Robots FIRST Tech Challenge team in the company of world champion athletes by inviting them and several of their academic peers to the White House on Monday, October 18, 2010.

“We welcome championship sports teams to the White House to celebrate their victories. I’ve had the Lakers here. I’ve had the Saints here, the Crimson Tide,” the President said during his remarks to a distinguished audience of education, government, and business leaders. “I thought we ought to do the same thing for the winners of science fair and robotic contests and math competitions. Because often we don’t give these victories the attention that they deserve.”

Rock N’ Roll Robots is a team of ninth-grade Girl Scouts from the greater Los Angeles area that competes in the FIRST Tech Challenge. Their earlier claim to fame was nabbing the Inspire Award at the 2010 FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, which is what prompted the invitation to join 15 other winning teams at the White House Science Fair.

Rock N’ Roll Robots used LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education NXT with TETRIX® by Pitsco Education to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge and also win the Middle School Challenge portion of the science fair. Two other FIRST teams were among the 16 groups invited to the White House. FIRST Robotics Competition Team No. 341 from Ambler, Pennsylvania, was the national winner of the Largest Student Robotics Competition for their “Miss Daisy” robot at the 2010 FIRST Robotics Championship. The Inventioneers team from Londonderry, New Hampshire, was recognized for its 2010 FIRST LEGO League World Festival creation of a steering wheel that combats distracted driving.

The first White House Science Fair is part of the Educate to Innovate program aimed at moving American students from the middle of the pack internationally to the top during the next decade. One assessment has American 15-year-olds ranked 21st in science and 25th in math.

“It is unacceptable to me, and I know it’s unacceptable to you, for us to be ranked on average as 21st or 25th – not with so much at stake,” Obama said. “We don’t play for second place here in America. We certainly don’t play for 25th.”

Younger students are taking their cue to improve and succeed in math and science through robotics, which incorporates skills from all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines.

“It was interesting when I was talking with some folks, ‘How did you get interested in this? How did you first enter a robotics contest?’” Obama stated of his interaction with the science fair winners. “And a lot of times, it turned out that a young person had been inspired because they had seen some older kid involved in a robotics contest. Or there had been a teacher who had connected with some international contest, and it gave them a focal point for their energy and their attention and their interest.”

To learn more about the TETRIX® Building System for robotics, go to http://www.tetrixrobotics.com. Learn more about LEGO Education at http://www.LEGOeducation.us and Pitsco Education at http://www.pitsco.com. For more information on FIRST Robotics, go to http://www.usfirst.org. For more information about the first White House Science Fair, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov.

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Tom Farmer
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