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FIRST Robotics competition coming to UNCP Aug. 5

July 31, 2017

Robots will invade the Jones Center on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke on August 5.

The main gym will be the site of the county’s first-ever THOR (Thundering Herds of Robots) event. It is a robotics competition pitting high schoolers from across the state against one another. A dozen teams are scheduled to compete, including Robeson Early College High School’s very own ROBCOBOT. 

The team’s coach, Keenan Locklear, is pumped about the robotics competition being hosted in Robeson County.

“This is not just about robots,” Locklear said. “They gain leadership skills and I have found since they’ve been involved in these robotics competitions, they are doing better in school. Some have found something they didn’t know they had an interest in, like software programing and mechanical engineering.”

“We are trying to get our students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and this is the first step.” 

The August 5 competition is being hosted by FIRST North Carolina, a nonprofit organization created to inspire youth to pursue careers in science and technology and to help them acquire the skills to compete in a technologically-driven economy.

There are 21 members on the ROBCOBOTS squad. They will be competing in a game called Steamworks in which a three-team alliance will guide their robots, trying to score points by building steam pressure, gathering materials to ignite rotors, and boarding robots onto an airship.

THOR is the state’s first off-season robotics competition for FIRST Robotics Competition teams. The “build season” for FIRST begins in January. Teams are given six weeks to design, build, program, and test a robot that can perform the necessary tasks to succeed in each year’s game.

Students work closely with teachers, like Locklear at Robeson Community College’s Early College, and volunteer mentors. Locklear said they are in need of mentors to assist during each phase.

“The students come up with the design,” he said. “There are no instructions … just a tub or parts. That’s why we need mentors from the community to assist with the engineering and testing.”

The Early College team was formed in 2016. Locklear, a two-time UNCP graduate who teaches chemistry and physical science at the Early College, learned about the FIRST organization while serving on the N.C. Board of Science, Technology and Innovation. He wrote and was awarded grants to start his own team.

Locklear said he hopes to inspire the next generation of engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs.THOR is North Carolina's very first off-season robotics competition for FIRST FRC teams. Coming to UNC Pembroke - August 5 for the 2017 Steamworks game!

The ROBCOBOTS are actively seeking Mentors for the upcoming season. As a Mentor of a FIRST® team, you are, through the kids, the key ingredient in the success of your team. Your contribution to the success of FIRST programs and ultimately to the success of FIRST is immeasurable.

FRC Mentors play a vital role in the success of their students. Mentors work extensively with team members during the build season, designing, building, and fabricating a functional robot for Competition. Their expertise is the catalyst for the team’s and students’ success.

As a mentor for the “ROBCOBOTS,” Robeson Early College High School’s Robotics Team, you get to help the youth of our community to learn, grow, and expand their future opportunities while honing your analytical skills and having fun.The Robeson Early College High School Robotics team 6729 is a part of the FIRST Robotics Competition, where high school-aged teams compete head to head on a special playing field with robots they have designed, built, and programmed in only six weeks with the guidance of volunteer mentors including teachers, parents, and others.

FIRST is a robotics competition founded by inventor Dean Kamen. The Robeson Early College High School Robotics team 6729 is a part of the FIRST Robotics Competition, where high school-aged teams compete head to head on a special playing field with robots they have designed, built, and programmed in only six weeks with the guidance of volunteer mentors including teachers, parents, and others.“My goal is to start up clubs at each of the middle schools in Robeson County,” he said. “I have seen my kids mature in the areas of public speaking. They come to high school thinking they want to be a doctor and that’s all they think.

“But once they get involved in robotics, they start thinking about designing prosthetics. This exposes them to other areas that they can succeed.

“We have some smart students. They just need to be challenged. Robotics gives them the opportunity to rise to the challenge.”