By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

Over 100 middle and high school students from the Southern Tier descended on SUNY Broome’s Applied Technology Building armed with uniquely designed robots and a hunger to compete. Tuesday, April 9, 2024, marked the 13th Annual Robotics Competition, a collaborative event developed by the Eastern Southern Tier STEM HUB, SUNY Broome, Broome-Tioga BOCES, and regional school districts. The competition’s mission is to encourage 7th through 12th graders to explore Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math through the hands-on experience of designing and building functional robots. 

Teams and individual competitors hailed from over 12 regional districts and included students from Broome-Tioga BOCES’ New Visions and P-TECH programs. Students had the option to compete individually or as a team representing their respective schools’ robotics teams and technology classes. The competition consisted of six main events in which students either competed for points or for the fastest and most accurate completion times. Specialized challenges included:

  • Large “Swept Away” Challenge
  • Small “Swept Away” Challenge
  • Autonomous Task Challenge
  • “King of the Ring” Bot Challenge 
  • Forklift Challenge
  • Maze Programming Challenge 

SUNY Broome’s Engineering Science: A.S. students volunteered to support the event’s logistics, while judges for the competition hailed from the Southern Tier’s top technical industries, including Raymond Corporation, Lockheed Martin, and BAE. 

Judge Clint Buchanan chats with his next competitor.

Clint Buchanan of BAE Systems served as a judge for the small “swept away” challenge and was blown away by the ingenuity of the competitors. “I’m really impressed by the design and engineering behind these robots,” Buchanan shared. “It’s clear that I will definitely be working alongside many of these students one day. This is a great program! I only wish my high school offered something like this when I was a student.” 

Maya Padmanabhan, a 7th grader from Chenango Forks Middle School, arrived at the competition with the goal of placing first in the “autonomous task” challenge. Last year, her robot placed second in the competition. “It took me about 20 hours to design, program, and construct my robot,” Padmanabhan explained. “I really love building things. My dad is a mechanical engineer, so I think that I’ll probably follow in his footsteps and study engineering in college too.”

Maya Padmanabhan and her teacher Mr. Ramsden.

Professor Robert Lofthouse, Associate Professor and Chairperson of Engineering Science & Physics coordinated the event on behalf of SUNY Broome and admitted that the Annual Robotics Competition is one of his favorite days on campus each year.

Robotics competitions are a great, tangible way to showcase that STEM fields require both technical and creative ingenuity. Our goal is to encourage these students to have fun and stick with STEM,” Lofthouse said.

Are you interested in learning about engineering, design, and programming? Learn more about SUNY Broome’s STEM division!

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