Local robotics competition ‘ignites the spark’ for Panhandle students

Local News

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Over the weekend, it was a battle of brains at the FSU Holley Center, as 4th to 8th grade students had the chance to test out the robotics skills they’ve been working on at the ‘First LEGO League’ Bay County Qualifier Tournament.

In the words of Patronis Elementary 4th grader Anders, “it’s very nerve-wracking.”

He explained that the competition is fun but also an adrenaline rush. 

“You spent your whole year building this robot,” he said. “It would be really fun to win, but that’s just part of it.”

The tournament gave students from all over the Panhandle the chance to go ‘robot to robot’ in some friendly, but very intense competition.

“It really kind of strengthens their scientific, engineering, mathematics experience and muscles,” said Chris Voorheis, the tournament director. 

For Walker Rivard from Surfside Middle School, that strengthening doesn’t happen without frustrations. 

“Sometimes, you’ll work on a program and then it won’t save properly and then you’ll have to go back the next day and completely restart,” he said. “It’s probably the worst frustration I’ve faced with it.”

Mosley High School 9th grader Carson Kelly says it’s all worth it.

“Just keep pushing through it and work towards your goal,” he said. 

He and dozens of other students at the competition see this as their future career. For teachers like Patronis Elementary’s Kimberly Parsons, it’s an inspiring sight. 

“All, as teachers, we really need to do is lay out the opportunity for them,” she said. “They rise to the challenge in ways we never thought possible.”

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