This is their future: Craig elementary students build STEM skills with VEX IQ Robotics home event |

This is their future: Craig elementary students build STEM skills with VEX IQ Robotics home event

Students and coaches with the Ridgeview Elementary School and Sandrock Elementary School teams represent Craig together at the VEX IQ Competition.
Andy Bockelman

With the coming decades likely to see an exponential expansion in the technology industry, finding educational opportunities within the field is key for parents and teachers who want their children to keep pace.

Hence, Craig elementary schools’ latest project, which aims to make the experience both entertaining and informative.

Ridgeview Elementary School was the site Saturday for the VEX IQ Robotics Competition between the hosting school and Sandrock Elementary, as well as some visitors.

VEX IQ is aimed at kids in grades four through eight as a method of teaching STEM skills for the younger generation.

“Elementary and middle school is the most formative time in a young student’s life,” states the VEX IQ website. “The best way to instill a lifelong interest in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is to provide a fun, engaging, and hands-on opportunity to explore and experience it for themselves.”

Students build, code and operate functional machinery for competitions, with teamwork key as they learn how to push the automatons into basic tasks in competition.

Ridgeview Elementary School teams get robots in motion in the final round of the VEX IQ Competition.
Andy Bockelman

During the event, kids worked together to get robots moving while lifting and stacking cubes and balls on a small playing field.

Montrose’s Centennial Middle School walked away the big winner of most of the day’s prizes, including a berth into an upcoming state competition.

Sandrock Elementary School students maneuver machinery around in the VEX IQ Competition at Ridgeview Elementary School.
Andy Bockelman

Still, the score was quite narrow, said Ridgeview teacher Rhonda Counts.

“We had elementary kids against middle-schoolers, and we only got beat by one point, so that’s pretty monumental,” she said.

With six teams representing Sandrock and three for Ridgeview, plenty of Craig kids were in the mix, with students from Moffat County High School’s National Honor Society and Key Club helping run things smoothly.

Moffat County High School volunteers reset the field in the VEX IQ Competition at Ridgeview Elementary School.
Andy Bockelman

Sandrock fourth-grader Ember Mogus was one of the drivers directing the team robot via remote control.

“It was pretty much driving today, but we did our coding, too,” she said.

The best part of the competition was her team making it to the final round, she said.

The project started with a robot named Ike, which the team modified over time.

“It looked like a human, but we detached his head and his arms and attached an elevator,” she said.

Sandrock Elementary School teams and coaches gather following the VEX IQ Competition.
Andy Bockelman

Learning to work as a group took some time, but by the end of it, Mogus said she felt part of a great team.

“They’re all really nice, and they don’t get mad at you for doing something dumb,” she said.

Practices began in October for the program as schools prepared for a wintertime contest, traveling to a recent similar event in Roosevelt, Utah to get a feel for what it would be like.

Ridgeview Elementary School teacher Eric Warner shows off a volunteer award for the VEX IQ Competition.
Andy Bockelman

Ridgeview music teacher Eric Warner was provided a special volunteer award for helping in the preparation.

“He’s been pretty dang helpful,” Counts said. “This was the only Western Slope tournament for VEX IQ.”

While Craig Middle School and Moffat County High School competes in FIRST Robotics events, the elementary-level curriculum is continuing to grow, Counts said.

“This is all because the school board decided to support such a wonderful program,” she said.

Counts said one element of the program is discouraging adult coaches from jumping in and controlling the project as kids ready their robots.

“They cannot say we did any of it, because it was all them,” she said. “I think it’s a life skill that’s a way for them to be successful.”

Ridgeview Elementary School teams and coaches gather following the VEX IQ Competition.
Andy Bockelman

Counts added that while a few decades ago, elementary students were amazed by the prospect of a classroom computer, she can only imagine what the years to come will bring as today’s children become tomorrow’s adults.

“They’re probably not going to have a job that doesn’t involve some kind of higher level technology by the time they get up there,” she said. “This is going to be their future.”

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