MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - More than 1,200 students in grades 9-12 will exercise their brilliant minds during the FIRST Robotics Competition being held in the Grand Strand.
On Wednesday night, preparations were underway at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. It's the third year the Palmetto Regional FIRST Robotics Competition has been held here. More than 60 teams from across the area and the nation will be competing, including 11 Horry County Schools teams.
Students in Exhibit Hall C were fixing things, and rolling in bins of equipment getting ready to show off their months of hard work.
For Jarrett Powell, it's his first year competing. "I am looking forward to it because my future occupations involves a lot of robotics and I hope to take away a lot knowledge about this, and how they work and all that," he said.
The competition is designed as a hands-on experience for the students to fuel their vested interest and excitement in science, technology, engineering and Math, also known as STEM.
"It's like a race, we're working on things, fixing things, and then you get on the competition field," Powell said. "The adrenaline is going to be flowing through everybody. It's going to be fun, we're going to have a good time."
The students say building a robot to perfection doesn't just happen overnight. They say it takes a lot of sweat, tears, and time. We asked first-time competitor Hali Hutchinson. "We stayed after multiple days and worked some days until 8, 9 o'clock at night. We missed things like basketball games. We had to come in on teacher work day and it killed us," Hutchinson said jokingly. "We were like, "Oh my gosh" what are we doing? But I think it was worth it once the robot started and progress came. It was almost like an addiction we had to finished, that's all we could think about."
Organizers say these students will hopefully discover the excitement of engineering and technology through this competition that builds life skills like team work, self-confidence, and problem solving.
This is Pam Ross' third year working with the program, she says she is an science educator that loves to see the students excel in robotics.
"You want your kids to be involved in problem solving and walk away with real-life learning skills, so when they either choose a career or they go out into the workforce, they are equipped with the skills they need and robotics is a great platform for that," Ross explained.
The robotics competition ends Saturday, February 28 with dozens of awards and scholarships be handed out.
Practice competition begins Thursday, February 26 with actually competition kicking off at 8:30 a.m. Friday. The competition is free and open to the public.