More than 100 adults and students packed the Friends Academy Field House on Saturday, November 18th from 9am to 2pm. The cheers in the busy athletic complex were surprisingly not for sports teams but for robots, and the kids who worked together to create them. The school hosted its first VEX IQ Robotics Tournament for grades 4–8, welcoming 31 teams from 11 schools across Long Island and Manhattan. One of the five competing Friends teams won the top award for overall excellence. All participants came away with important lessons about engineering and teamwork.
VEX IQ presents students with robotics challenges and helps them develop skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). “It gives students a great opportunity to learn about the iter- ative process of designing, building, programming and testing a robot for competition,” shared Friends Director of Technology Ken Ambach, who was excited for the school to host the tournament. “Repeating over and over again teaches real problem-solving and often, good lessons about failure.” It also gives kids valuable insight into working together.“In our group, we assign different jobs to get things done,” said seventh grader Nell Kurita, who was on the winning Friends team with classmates Rigel and Toby Mummers. The teammates identify each other's strengths and use them throughout the assignment process.
Kids learn how to overcome dif- ferences of opinion. “If we have a little disagreement we take a vote,” explained Melanie Koren, who took part in the tour- nament with her team from South Side Middle School in Rockville Center. In addition to the robot competitions, teams are invited to create STEM research projects. Nell's winning team created a display about three robots created by Boston Dynamics. The company designs revolutionary robots that move and act like humans and animals. Toby showed a video of one robot of the team’s focus, named Atlas, doing a back flip. “It's insane!” he exclaimed.