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Students compete in robot rescue challenge
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STEM Strategies

Students compete in robot rescue challenge


Local middle and high school students fought for robotic victory on Friday at the annual Burke County student engineering competition.

The 2021 Morganton Arts Design and Engineering competition was held on Oct. 22 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Morganton. The science, technology, engineering and math competition allowed middle and high school students from various Burke County schools to compete for the overall high score.

The competition was originally scheduled for the first of the three weekends of the Historic Morganton Festival, but was postponed due to COVID-19. The competition was rescheduled and revamped for students to put their robotic creations to the test.

This year’s theme was “Robot Rescue Challenge.” Students were required to build and develop a robot and compete in a series of challenges to accumulate points for their teams.

The course was created by Paul Gantt, the Project Lead the Way teacher at East Burke and Draughn high schools, Clay Nelson, the Project Lead the Way teacher at Patton High School, and members of TOSS Studios, a local arts and design studio.

Students were separated into different sections based on their grade levels to allow ultimate fairness throughout the competition.

Each group was given a four-minute time limit to complete as much of the designed course as possible. Each of the obstacles were worth a certain amount of points and whoever had the most points in their category, won the title champion.

The course was designed to test the students on a variety of different skillsets. They had to use their engineering skills while applying different design concepts, properly communicating and problem solving.

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“We had different value items at different places and the students showed up with their pre-made robot ready to come out on the course,” Gantt said. “Most of the day the students practiced how to grab items, worked on their strategy and pieced everything together in different practice sections ... They later went live in front of the judges and were ranked from top to bottom from there.”

The winners of the competition were as follows:

Middle School Division

First place, East Burke Middle School with a score of 120 points

Second place, Heritage Middle School with a score of 115 points

Third place, Liberty Middle School with a score of 90 points

High School Division

First place, North Carolina School for the Deaf with a score of 130 points

Second place, East Burke High School with a score of 120 points

Third Place, Draughn High School with a score of 95 points

Sydni Hall is a staff writer and can be reached at 828-432-8907 or at

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Sydni Hall has been covering education, features and new business for The News Herald since April 2021.

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