On Friday, January 20th, Middle School students from eight local East Texas schools packed the East Texas Fairground to compete in an Engineering challenge. Students from each school had 6 weeks to build a motorized vehicle made from legos that could roam on a simulation of planet Mars. They had to drive their “Mars Rovers” on a replica of Mars’s surface. They were judged on their design, planning and execution. Each team was made up of 4 students, a driver, mechanic, journalist and an alternate.
Enzo Terrell, a 4th grade student at Jack Elementary, said this of why he enjoys this program, ” I like explaining how it works, I like being able to make something and understand exactly why its moving. I think learning these skills will help me with high school and college and maybe eventually building important stuff.” Enzo credited his teacher Mr. Miller on his interest in this program and even said that Mr. Miller has inspired him to become a scientist. Deborah Newman, Director of Competitive Events for the Park of East Texas, said the reason she feels these Academic Rodeo events are so important is the motivation it gives the students to succeed and work hard in and out of the classroom. ” I love to see what the children have learned every year, their creativity is always amazing and you can feel the excitement in the air. Sometimes I wonder if they even realize how much they are learning, or if they are just thinking they are having fun. Either way opportunities like this are invaluable,” Mrs. Newman explained about the event.
Academic Rodeo is comprised of 14 events a year, 7 of which are endorsed and sponsored by UT Tyler. This partnership is thought to be beneficial for both UT Tyler and Academic Rodeo. UT Tyler provides volunteers that are highly important in the activities as well as these events give UT Tyler students valuable experience. Over 1200 East Texas middle school students compete in these events every year, ribbons and awards are given to the winning teams in February. This Engineering challenge seemed to be a fun and exciting event for all involved and I’m sure students cannot wait until next year to compete again.