CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46) – Dozens of local students from five different Title 1 schools in Charlotte put their coding skills to the test for the Digi-Bridge Robotics Showcase on Saturday.
The event was held at the Queen City Robotics Alliance.
It was the first time the members got to meet and work together in person in more than a year.
The showcase is soon-to-be 7th grader, Pannag Sunkavalli’s second robotics competition where students get to show off their coding, programming, and problem-solving skills.
The program got rolling in 2019 but didn’t get the chance to build much momentum.
Alyssa Sharpe, CEO of Digi-Bridge said, “We had a great competition in February 2020, right before the pandemic, so we had to switch everything to virtual very quickly.”
The program moved exclusively to virtual courses, so Digi-Bridge partnered with Apparo, a non-profit that connects other non-profits with the resources and technology that they need to succeed.
In this case, it was getting students laptops so they could continue coding at home.
Apparo’s Director of Marketing, Bleema Bershad said, “A lot of kids lost access to technology with other programs that shut down, so we were able to help bridge that gap.”
That laptop is how Sunkavalli is able to code his robot and tell it what to do.
The showcase tasks include having the robots move in a straight line and be able to perform a series of tasks, like moving blocks, rolling over a bridge, and triggering a mechanism that makes a Lego swing-set move back and forth.
Sunkavalli said he’s glad to be back with other kids after having them work through the challenge of virtual learning.
“It’s basically like teamwork, where you can figure out the problems easier and quicker,” he said.
The showcase and the program itself are something that Sharpe said many of these kids from underserved schools might not have otherwise.
She said, “We believe that every student should have essential digital literacy skills and that really starts with coding and programming.”
So while there are no winners and losers in the competition, organizers hope students will gain something much more valuable than a trophy.
Bershad said, “It awakens their love of science, math, and coding, and inspires them for their future careers.”