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NOVA's SySTEMic Solutions expands successful robotics program with VEX tournament

Upcoming EXPO to feature astronaut Tom Jones

More than 400 students, teachers and parents participated in a VEX robotics tournament sponsored by Northern Virginia Community College’s SySTEMic Solutions on Jan. 4 at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va.

Forty teams from around Virginia competed in the popular “Toss Up” VEX game that pits robots in autonomous and head-to-head driver-controlled challenges. The winning team was “177X Twisted Botz” from Gloucester, Va., led by John Thompson, an engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center. A team from Gainesville Middle School won the Sportsmanship Award.

Other local teams represented Manassas Park City Schools, Potomac School in McLean, Virginia 4H from Haymarket, and several middle and high schools from Loudoun County.

The tournament built on the success of last summer’s robotics camps that attracted a record number of participants. Robotics camps and competitions are exciting, hands-on opportunities for students to get involved in STEM, according to Tosin Adetoro, STEM Education Coordinator for SySTEMic Solutions in Loudoun County.

“With this tournament, SySTEMic Solutions was able to provide a competitive avenue for local teams to showcase their talents,” Adetoro said. “This year, we sponsored 20 new VEX robotics teams in Loudoun County and I am proud to say that 19 of those teams had fully functioning robots and competed very well. I look forward to seeing those 20 teams develop and mature. Our goal is to have a VEX robotics program at every middle and high school in Loudoun in the near future.”

Many parents expressed appreciation for the competition and what it means for their children. “The opportunities that are being created to invigorate interest in STEM fields are amazing and the NOVA team should be commended for pulling off an extremely successful competition,” said parent Kitt Wijnstein. “It is so refreshing to see students from across the region absorb and embrace all the technology challenges in building these robots. It’s mind-boggling the talent these middle and high school students demonstrated.”

After getting off to a strong start in Prince William County, NOVA’s SySTEMic Solutions is expanding across Northern Virginia under the leadership of Provost Roger Ramsammy. Through collaborations with school divisions, businesses, higher education institutions and community organizations, the program engages students in elementary school to inspire them to pursue STEM education in high school, college and into the workforce. The program aims to have 40,000 students preparing for STEM careers by 2016.

SySTEMic Solutions is gearing up for major events at NOVA-Loudoun March 22 and NOVA-Manassas March 29. STEM EXPO will showcase informative exhibits, inspiring speakers and enlightening tours to highlight the importance of engaging students, teachers and professionals in STEM education and careers. Astronaut Tom Jones, who flew on four space shuttle missions, will give the keynote speech.

For more information about SySTEMic Solutions, contact Director Amy Harris at 703-257-6689 or 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.