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Area teams compete at Roboticon 2013 and NOVA's SySTEMic Solutions donates $75,700 to support local robotics programs

SySTEMic Solutions Director Amy Harris and NOVA-Manassas Provost Roger Ramsammy presented a check to SPARK Executive Director Sharon Henry to support robotics programs in Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County.

On March 9, Dr. Roger Ramsammy, provost at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), and Amy Harris, director of NOVA’s SySTEMic Solutions, presented $75,700 to SPARK, the Prince William County Schools Education Foundation.

The funding will support the regional coordination of robotics programs and events at elementary, middle and high schools in Prince William County, Manassas City and Manassas Park.

The check was presented during Roboticon 2013, held at Forest Park High School with 64 of the top middle school VEX robotics teams competing to qualify for the VEX World Championship in Anaheim, Calif., in April.

Robotics competitions give students the opportunity to develop the skills to succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in school and in future careers.

For STEM students and educators, Roboticon is equivalent to a championship football game and this year was no different with cheering parents in the stands and intense but sportsmanlike rivalry on the field.

The day’s events at Roboticon had middle school teams pitting wits against each other in robotic programming and skills competitions, moving from qualification games to more intense elimination rounds.

At the end of the day, the Stonewall and Bull Run Middle School alliance were the champions over the middle school pairing of Rippon and Marsteller.

The Design Award went to Bull Run Middle School for their thorough engineering notebook that documented the team’s progress throughout the year and demonstrated to the judges their ability to engineer a solution to a problem through logic and perseverance.

Rippon Middle School earned the Excellence Award, VEX’s top overall honor, and will join Bull Run Middle and Stonewall Middle at this year’s World Championship.

Manassas Christian School won both the programming and skills challenges and is now ranked in the top 250 middle schools in the world in those categories.

SySTEMic Solutions is NOVA’s STEM outreach program and a vital component in STEM education in Northern Virginia. Working with regional school divisions and the business community, the program’s support has led the Prince William and Manassas area to become a leader in robotics programs in Virginia.

Many of the competitors at Roboticon come from SySTEMic Solutions’ summer robotics camps and credit the camps as the genesis of their love for robotics.

Josh Labrie, program manager for SySTEMic Solutions, is adamant that the camps are not just inspiring and fun but also vital to the future of STEM innovation.

“These kids are choosing a STEM field for their careers because of this program and these camps. Students decide as early as middle school on the career or education they want to pursue. Without these programs, students would not have enough exposure to engineering, computer programming or related STEM fields to choose them for their future,” Labrie said.

Many of the older camp alumni testified to that by their presence at Roboticon as volunteer referees, judges and event manager.

To learn more, contact Harris at 703-257-6689 or email aharris@nvcc.edu.

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.