Robotics competition celebrates innovation and teamwork

Over 800 elementary, middle, and high school students from eight parishes and counties and their enthusiastic supporters converged on the Bossier Civic Center on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, for the second competition of the 2019-2020 Regional Autonomous Robotics Circuit (RARC) in North Louisiana.

RARC is a series of three cyber and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) competitions for students in grades 2-12.

“RARC is now in its ninth year, and every year the committee chooses a new theme that inspires the challenges. This year’s theme, Farm to Table, allows students to explore concepts like agriculture, farming technology, fruit cultivation, apiculture, and the fishing industry while programming their robots to autonomously accomplish several tasks on a large, colorful mat that looks like a community on the gulf. Thus, the students have an opportunity to learn about the industries, from shrimping to cyber, on which our state’s economy is based,” said Kevin Nolten, Director of Academic Outreach for the Cyber Innovation Center.

Valeria West, Assistant Extension Agent in Forestry and Wildlife for the Louisiana State University AgCenter, reinforced through a presentation to the students and their parents how much agriculture and agriculture-related technology impact the daily lives of Louisiana residents. Each competition features a presentation by a local professional who provides information on cyber and STEM, education resources, or academic and career pathways.

When asked how RARC impacts his classroom and his students, Robert Gallant with Greenacres Middle School commented that through RARC “we are preparing these kids for positions that aren’t even available yet.” Mr. Gallant went on to say that former students who are now graduating high school are pursuing engineering and similar degrees after years of being engaged in cyber and STEM programs.

Throughout the competition, approximately 200 teams from Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, Jackson, Lincoln, Natchitoches, Ouachita, and Webster Parishes and Bowie County, Texas accumulated points based on their performance and were ranked accordingly.

In the elementary division, South Highlands Elementary Team 1 emerged as the first place winner followed by Legacy Elementary Team 1 in second place and South Highlands Elementary Team 3 in third place.

Elm Grove Middle Team 5 triumphed in the middle school division and was awarded first place. Benton Middle Team 2 won second place, and Natchitoches Magnet Middle Team 2 was named the third place winner.

In the Parallax/high school division, Cope Team 2 earned first place while Southwood High Team 1 and Caddo Magnet High Team 3 took second and third place, respectively.