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Competition challenges children to build robots and learn about STEM areas

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Student Marriah Torres at 2009 G.E.A.R. Competition

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(March 26, 2010)--UTSA and the AT&T Foundation will present the 2010 Getting Excited About Robotics (G.E.A.R.) Competition from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., Saturday, March 27 at the Convocation Center on the UTSA Main Campus. People of all ages are welcome to attend and observe the event.

The annual robotics competition motivates young people to pursue careers in engineering by demonstrating advanced technologies and engaging them in interactive, hands-on activities that build technical skills and foster critical thinking, self-confidence, communication and leadership.

Dubbed "Up and Atom," this year's event challenges children to build and program robots for specific tasks using LEGO blocks and other household items. Made possible by a multi-year, $1.5 million grant from the AT&T Foundation, the competition was organized by the Interactive Technology Experience Center in the UTSA College of Engineering. More than 2,500 people are expected to attend including 650 third through eighth grade competitors representing 130 teams.

>> See photos from previous competitions.

The "Up and Atom" theme is a tribute to the Hadron Collider, a sophisticated tool used to research atoms, their structure and the development of new materials. At Saturday's competition, teams will unleash their robots to interact with "atoms" and "ions" (balls and washers) of various sizes and types. Sample challenges include injecting "ions" and removing "protons" from plasma flow containers, retrieving "top quarks" and removing defective magnets. All rounds will be timed on four-by-eight-foot obstacle course playing fields featuring baskets, hollow containers, flag arms and PVC piping.

UTSA College of Engineering Dean Mauli Agrawal says "Up and Atom" is a great way to engage children in the STEM areas -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"Through hands-on outreach activities like the annual G.E.A.R. Competition, our summer robotics camps and virtual class field trips, our Interactive Technology Experience Center lets kids experience how fun STEM can be," said Agrawal. "Because we have strong support from the AT&T Foundation, we have been able to capture kids at an early age and train them to think creatively and work collaboratively, just as engineers do on a daily basis."

"The best part is that many of the kids we're reaching are in San Antonio's most disadvantaged areas -- kids who would not otherwise have been offered the opportunity to explore robotics. We are very grateful to the AT&T Foundation for its support in establishing and funding iTEC these past three years."

"We're pleased this gift has helped to create this interactive technology experience for students," said Michael Antieri, senior vice president, AT&T Application Solutions. "Interest and enrollment in engineering has decreased over the recent years and the hope is for this program to attract students, once again to engineering, mathematics and science."

AT&T Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AT&T Inc., supports programs that build communities and improve access to information technologies, technology training and professional skills development. AT&T Inc. is one of the world's largest telecommunications holding companies and is the largest in the United States.

Opening ceremonies for Saturday's "Up and Atom" robotics competition are at 8:30 a.m. and the first round of competition will begin at 9 a.m. Throughout the day, participants will compete in seed rounds, culminating in quarter-finalist, semi-finalist and finalist rounds. Champions will be named at the 4 p.m. award ceremony.

Parking will be available in unmarked spaces in lot 5, adjacent to Edward Ximenes Avenue and UTSA Boulevard. (View a map of the UTSA Main Campus.)

For more information, e-mail itec@utsa.edu or visit the UTSA Interactive Technology Experience Center Web site.

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About the UTSA Interactive Technology Experience Center

Housed in the UTSA College of Engineering, the Interactive Technology Experience Center is a four-year project that began in 2007 with funding provided by the AT&T Foundation. ITEC's mission is to inspire youth by creating an environment where they can understand how engineering, science and technology shape our lives and the future of our world. The center's focus areas include robotics, telecommunications, scanning electron microscope applications and design for manufacturing.

About AT&T

AT&T Inc. is a premier communications holding company. Its subsidiaries and affiliates -- AT&T operating companies -- are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and around the world. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation's fastest 3G network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high-speed Internet and voice services. In 2009, AT&T again ranked No. 1 in the telecommunications industry on FORTUNE magazine's list of World's Most Admired Companies.

 

 

Did You Know?

For acclaimed UTSA writer, poetry rhymes with life

Robert Penn Warren said: “How do poems grow? They grow out of your life.” That is certainly true for Carmen Tafolla. An associate professor of practice with the UTSA College of Education and Human Development, Tafolla has authored more than 20 acclaimed books of poetry and prose, including "The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans." It won the Tom´s Rivera Children’s Book Award in 2009.

Tafolla is a San Antonio native who grew up on the West Side. Attending a private high school, she realized that the literature did not positively portray her community or the people who lived there. She determined to change that in her writing. In published works for both adults and children — more than 200 anthologies, magazines, journals, textbooks and readers in four languages — Tafolla reflects on the rich Mexican-American culture of San Antonio in which she grew up.

Did you know? Tafolla was San Antonio's first Poet Laureate, from 2012 to 2014, and currently serves as the Poet Laureate of Texas.

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