Gearing Up for Upcoming STEM & Robotics Competitions

The advent of a new year is an exciting time especially for students gearing up for various STEM/robotics competitions. Over the years, FLATE has supported various Technology Student Associations (TSA) which serve as launch pads for students looking to get involved in STEM, manufacturing and robotics-related projects and activities. “Many of the students who attend FLATE’s summer robotics camp have gone on to join teams or form teams” says Desh Bagley FLATE’s outreach manager who also serves as a coach for several robotics teams in the Tampa Bay area. Indeed, FLATE’s support has enabled students across Florida to participate in local, regional as well as statewide competitions that propel students to pursue advanced technology careers.

This Spring, FLATE is working with Hillsborough Community College and TechPlayzone to sponsor FIRST Lego League (FLL) competitions in Florida. FLL is a robotics program for 9 to 16 year olds (9 to 14 in US/CAN/MEX), and is designed to get students excited about science and technology, and teach them valuable employment and life skills. FLL can be used in a classroom setting but is not solely designed for this purpose.

FLATE is mentoring an ‘all girls’ FIRST Lego League Robotics team this year. Desh Bagley, will
serve as the lead coach for the Squirtle Squad Scholars, which is an ‘all girls’ team comprising of one third grader, one 4th grader and three 5th graders. “The focus of the Challenge this year is to develop World Class Learning strategies” said Bagley. For this Challenge, the Squirtle Squad Scholars, researched Rip Currents and the number of deaths associated with rip currents around the World. The girls came up with a solution to help improve the way people escape the "grip of a rip current" which they called "Breaking the Grip of the Rip." They spoke with experts at Brandon Sports and Aquatics Center and the Florida Department of Environmental Safety, and even developed a class focused on rip current swimming.

The Squirtle Squad Scholars have won numerous awards, and are among 350 teams competing at various FLL events across Florida. They will compete at a qualifying tournament on January 17 at Rushe Middle School in Pasco County. Sixteen teams from across the Tampa Bay area are scheduled to participate at the FLATE/HCC tournament on January 10 at HCC, Brandon. Following the preliminary tournament, three teams will qualify to compete at the regional tournament at Middleton High School in Tampa on January 31. More information about the teams and tournaments can be found at: and

In addition to FLATE’s support of FLL teams in Florida, FLATE is also actively engaged and is a leading sponsor for BizBots competitions. BizBots is a low cost, team-based business and robotics competition designed by the Florida Robotics Alliance. “This program focuses on transferable skills and stresses understanding and demonstration of the science and mathematics knowledge, technological tools, machines, instruments, materials, processes and systems related to robotics” said Ken Fiallos, P.E. & FLATE technical project coordinator.  The purpose of the BizBot program is to provide students with a foundation of knowledge and technically oriented experiences in the study of the principles and applications of robotics engineering and its effect upon our lives and the choosing of an occupation. The content and activities include the study of entrepreneurship, safety, and leadership skills.

This year’s BizBots competition are scheduled for January 17 at Wharton High School in Tampa
where eight teams from surrounding areas that include Plant City, New Tampa and South Tampa will be competing. “The focus is to expose students to what it takes to build and run a  manufacturing business from an Entrepreneurial Perspective” said Fiallos who also oversees the BizBots project in Florida.  The competition emphasizes implementing both business acumen and engineering principles by having students design a robotic ‘Pick & Place’ system to fulfill commercial processing tasks. Stay tuned for updates on these events and competitions.

For More information about BizBots read the June 2014 edition of the FLATE Focus. For information on competitions contact Ken Fiallos at, or visit For information on other Career & Technical Student organizations across Florida visit, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at

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