Regional Robotics and STEM Events in Florida

Spring is a great time when STEM enthusiasts across the state take an active role in participating in regional and statewide competitions and events. This season in Florida there are 685 FIRST LEGO Robotics teams (grades 4-8), 146 FIRST TECH CHALLENGE Teams (grades 7-12), and 85 FIRST Robot Challenge teams (grades 9-12). “As the Florida state legislature tackles whether, or not computer science should be allowed to replace the traditional foreign language high school credit, school administrators and legislators are taking sides” said Desh Bagley, FIRST LEGO LEAGUE Affiliate Partner for the Central West Region. The common denominator, Bagley notes, is that both sides agree computer science is important and should be learned by Florida’s students. More info about this on the Education Week Blog.

Thankfully, the robotics programs in Florida’s schools are hitting the mark. Robotics programs

exist for students in grades 4 – 12 throughout the state. This season in Florida there are 685 FIRST LEGO Robotics teams (grades 4-8), 146 FIRST TECH CHALLENGE Teams (grades 7-12), and 85 FIRST Robot Challenge teams (grades 9-12). Duval County and the city of Jacksonville have seen the most growth of robotics teams. The school districts, corporations, and universities have partnered to give students amazing opportunities to participate in robotics teams. Every elementary, middle and high school in Duval County boasts of a FIRST program. The president of FIRST, Don Bossi, will attend the Northwest Florida FIRST LEGO League Championship on January 16th at the University of North Florida.

The FIRST Robotics Challenge kickoff is on January 9, in which high school robotics teams will 

find out about this year’s challenge. Tampa teams will attend the KickOff at the DooLittle Institute in Ybor City at the Sofwerx Facility. Students will tour the facility and meet with engineers who will help them plan, design, and build their robots for the season. It is the hope and the goal that all Florida school districts will take a leading role like those in the Northwest region. “Perhaps computer science won’t be an acceptable foreign language requirement, but the opportunities to learn computer science and robotics in the state should abound” said Bagley. 

Here in Tampa, Hillsborough Community College will sponsor the FIRST LEGO League Championship for Central West Florida on February 13, at the Trinkle Center on the Plant City Campus. The FIRST events are open to spectators and free of charge. The statewide championship for FIRST Tech Challenge will be held on February 13th at St. Leo University. There will be 28 teams from the state seeking bids to the Super Regional in San Antonio, Texas. For more information about FIRST robotics, contact Desh Bagley at dbagley5@hccfl.edu.


In addition to the regional robotics competitions, Electrathon of Tampa Bay (ETO) is also
hosting several events this Spring with three major events and monthly races planned at the USF Engineering Expo in February, at the Florida State Fairgrounds in April, and the Florida Solar Center's Energy Whiz in May. The next race is scheduled for January 16 at Wharton High School, in conjunction with a robotics competition being held there on the same day. Also associated with our ETO activities is the Junior Solar Sprint group that conducts its races during ETO’s two-hour intermission on race days, and are part of its awards ceremonies as well!

Currently there are five high schools actively racing, with two more scheduled to join later this year. Both HCC and USF are racing, along with four ‘Open Class’ hobbyists from across Florida who join for each of the race days. Most of our races include about 10 - 13 cars, racing in three classes.

For more information on Electrathon of Tampa Bay visit http://electrathonoftampabay.org, or contact Fredi Beck, assistant department manager for strategic marketing for Hillsborough County Public Schools fredi.beck@sdhc.k12.fl.us.


For educators looking for professional development opportunities, Suncoast Technical College 

of Sarasota and HFO-Tampa are hosting the 1st Annual Florida Haas Technical Education Center HTEC - CNC educators conference in March. Join educators to share and learn about the latest tools and trends in CNC and Manufacturing education and partnerships. This conference is open to manufacturing educators and administrators including High School, Technical College, Community College and Universities. All schools with all CNC brands can participate in the conference. A free Haas table top CNC simulator will be given away with a special appearance by Jeremy Bout from Edge Factor. Guest speakers will include Career Edge Funders and Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE). Also discussion sessions on FL DOE frameworks, NIMS and Skills Florida, and tours of the STC Precision Machining & CNC Automation program will be offered throughout the day. For more information visit http://www.htecnetwork.org/conferences.cfm, or contact Ed Doherty, precision machining and CNC instructor at STC at Edward.Doherty@sarasotacountyschools.net, or visit http://suncoast.edu.