Fifth grade students from seven Van Buren School District campuses came together for a robotics challege at the high school arena.

As part of a VEX IQ Robotic Crossover Challenge, 14 fifth graders manipulated robots in two-part challenges for team points on March 10.

The goal of the exercise was for students to learn more about the movement of robots to help improve their programming skills, said Nancy Robbins, VBSD curriculum director. Central Elementary teacher Julia Cottrell organized the challenge.

“(Cottrell) decided to do a little in-district challenge because not many kids can participate in the regional robotics competitions,” Robbins said. “This was a way for us to give more kids an opportunity to participate.”

Each elementary campus held a challenge for its fifth graders, with students using joysticks to maneuver robots in a crossover game. The top drivers went to the district-wide challenge held Friday.

There, each child was paired up with a student from a differenct school to develop a strategy to complete the challenge with the most points. Communication and collaboration were encouraged, Cottrell said.

As part of the challenge, students were required to use their robots to move “hexaballs” into cubicles and then attempt to cooperate with an opposing team to mount a bridge that gaps the two challenge fields.

Teams were given 30 seconds for each half of the challenge, Cottrell said.

Programming and building the robots is part of the STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - curriculum implemented in the school district for third through fifth grade students through Project Lead the Way, Robbins said.

The robotics challenge is an outgrowth of the curriculum, Robbins said.

“They’re learning the capabilities of the robots and how to manipulate them so they’ll be better at programming them,” Cottrell said.