Virtual Get Excited About Robotics (GEAR)

Background

Get Excited About Robotics (GEAR) was founded in Texas, USA, in 2002 by Robert Acosta. The Virtual GEAR competition was piloted in 2015 and held annually thereafter with teams from South Africa, Germany and the United States of America participating in the competition. The competition runs for three months during which participants construct their game field, create a team video, design their robot, participate in the trial run and game day and create a video explaining their robot design.

Entry requirements

Robotics coaches sign up their teams of learners electronically and serve as point of communication. Each team needs to have access to 1 LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3/NXT robotics kit, 1 computer/laptop with EV3/NXT software installed, Internet access (at certain days), video recording capabilities (anything from cell phone to professional video camera) and ability to upload videos to the Internet, e.g. to Google Drive, live video conferencing capability during Game Day, e.g. through Skype, Lync, Facetime. Participation is open to all teams with a coach (school teams, after school clubs, science centres, private groups of friends, etc.).

Host

Inspired towards Science, Engineering, and Technology (I-SET) at the University of South Africa (UNISA) and the Whitacre College of Engineering (WCOE) at Texas Tech University (TTU) jointly host the competition.

Benefits

GEAR was created to foster interest among today’s youth in a career in engineering, science or technology. It is vital that they learn how engineers and scientists add value to our society and without them the world today would not be possible. Engineers and scientists are the true heroes of our modern world, but all of us have the potential to create something that can make the world a better place. In addition to learning computer programming and engineering design skills, learners gain teamwork, problem-solving, time-management, and critical thinking skills.

Target

Grade 3 to 8 learners from schools, science centres, after school clubs, and private groups with a coach. Participation is open to teams worldwide. There is no limitation on the number of learners per team but three to eight learners are recommended.

How it works

Teams design their robot using the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3/NXT kits and compete in two-minute matches on a 4’ x 4’ game field during which the robot must complete tasks of the annually-changing challenge autonomously. In January, coaches sign up their teams electronically. They then receive information regarding the general rules and the game field layout. Coaches and teams are responsible to construct their own game field using inexpensive game field elements from supermarket of hardware store. Teams then receive the game specific rules by email and have about a month to design their robot, after which they compete in May. All teams are scored and a ranking is determined using the robot performance at trial run and game day and the quality of the engineering design video. Winners are announced during the second half of May.

Cost

Registration and participation is for free. However, each team must have the resources to compete.

Awards

Each learner receives a participation certificate. The top for teams receive an award certificate.

Competition timelines

Registration is in January and the competition runs from February through mid- May.

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