An Uncommon Core Kids test THEIR STEM skills at 2017 Robot eXPO

Two students at the Robot Expo position their entries before the competition begins.

There's nothing quite like doing your math homework while you're preparing to knock your opponent's robotic sumo wrestler into oblivion. About 200 students from the Pomona and Walnut Valley school districts participated this spring in the annual Robot Expo, sponsored by Cal Poly Pomona's College of Education & Integrative Studies.

The obstacle course, top, requires precision guidance, whereas the sumo wrestling event, above, requires skill and at least a little good fortune. The best-laid plans can go awry quickly when the bots swing into action.

The School Robotics Initiative program collaborates with teachers to promote classroom learning in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students develop Common Core abilities via robotics design, construction and programming -- and last-minute tweaks and adjustments when the fun starts at the competition.

Although it's nice to win a medal, above right, the Robot Expo competition is all about learning STEM skills in an engaging way -- and the students' reactions, top and above left, reflect how much they've put into their work.

The events included sumo competition, as well as programming bots to execute precise turns and evasive maneuvers. Though the victors claimed the spoils and the bragging rights, even the vanquished ended up winners by conquering algebraic and quantitative reasoning challenges.

Ready, set, go ... students from six schools, top, gather at Fairplex in Pomona for the tournament. There are always a few final mental calculations, above, before the competition begins.

“The students work furiously during the school year to prepare for the competition,” says Cesar Larriva, an associate professor at CEIS. “The Expo brings out the best in them. It promotes sportsmanship, teamwork and problem-solving abilities.”

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