Acadia Robotics Competition Receives $45,000 PromoScience Grant


Acadia University's annual Robot Programming Competitions - aimed at encouraging junior high and high school students to study mathematics, science, engineering and technology - has received $45,000 from the federal government's PromoScience program.

PromoScience is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada and supports hands-on learning experiences for young students and their science teachers. One of two Nova Scotia awards announced on  July 7 by the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), Acadia's award is $15,000 per year for the next three years and was part of more than $3 million awarded across Canada.

"Our government is investing in science and technology to create jobs, strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life of Canadians," said Minister Goodyear. "Through our government's investment, this program is encouraging young people to discover and learn about science and engineering, and support Canada's future economic growth."

Acadia's annual Robot Programming Competitions feature affordable, easy-to-build and fun-to-program LEGO Mindstorms® robots.  Building robots to complete missions and developing project presentations also develops good teamwork and problem solving skills.  

"Acadia's annual robotics competition was launched five years ago and since then more than 500 Nova Scotia students and countless volunteers, parents, and teachers have participated," said Dr. Danny Silver, director of Acadia's Jodrey School of Computer Science and founder of the competitions. 

"Working with our partner, the Nova Scotia Community College, and major sponsors Michelin Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia, we have moved steadily to expand the competitions to include 44 teams; that's 300 students last year."

Robot Programming  Competitions have separate junior high and high school categories.   The junior high, FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams (ages 9-14) must design and program the robot to perform a series of challenging missions in 2.5 minutes that involves sensing and moving objects while avoiding obstacles.  The more missions successfully completed while avoiding danger areas and penalties, the more points the team receives.  FLL competitions worldwide involve 150,000 students who program robots and perform research on a topic of global concern.  The Acadia 2009-10 FFL champion team from École Rose-des-Vents in Greenwood represented Nova Scotia at the FLL World Championships in Atlanta, Georgia, and came home with a well deserved Judges' Award.

The High School Robot Competition (HRC) teams (ages 14-18) are faced with three advanced tasks that each must be completed in 3-4 minutes, such as maze negotiation, travelling salesman, and object removal.  The teams must develop innovative hardware and software solutions involving touch and light sensors, motors and gears, and sound and light indicators.  The faster and smarter the robots are at completing the tasks, the more points for the teams.

The competitions challenge student scientific curiosity, mathematical learning and team work. More than 80 per cent of the 2009 Acadia Championship participants who answered the evaluation survey agreed that they are now more interested in science and engineering.  Of those, 86 per cent agreed that they learned more about teamwork.  

"Demonstrating to young students that mathematics and science can be fun is one of the best ways we can encourage them to continue with their studies and perhaps pursue a career in the field," said Dr. Silver. "Our sponsors are very aware of this, as well as the need to produce more computer science and engineering graduates in order to meet growing job vacancies in the communications and information technology field. We are thankful and very happy to welcome NSERC to our growing list of supporters that for the 2010/11 season include the Province of Nova Scotia, Michelin Canada, Research in Motion, Nova Scotia Business Inc., EastLink and AVR/Magic 94.9. NSERC's funding will allow us to continue to expand to reach more of our youth.  I am equally happy to announce that this year our partner, Nova Scotia Community College, will deliver FLL qualifying rounds in several locations across the province."

To learn more about Acadia's Robot Programming Competition, visit http://cs.acadiau.ca/rpc/

Acadia's Faculty of Pure and Applied Science offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and has a well-respected computer science program with students enrolled from countries around the world. In addition to its annual robot programming competition, the Jodrey School of Computer Science offers summer robot programming camps to be held this year the week of August 16. For camp information visit http://cs.acadiau.ca/rpc/camp.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council is a federal agency whose vision is to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports some 28,000 students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. The agency promotes discovery by funding more than 11,800 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

About Acadia

Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, has long been recognized as one of Canada's premier post-secondary institutions. With its nationally and internationally recognized undergraduate and graduate research initiatives, small classes, and technology-rich teaching and learning environment, Acadia offers students an experience that includes academic achievement combined with personal growth and development. Acadia also offers distance learning, certificate programs, language training and other university extension programs through Open Acadia. For more information about Acadia University, visit our website at www.acadiau.ca.

About FIRST

FIRST® is a registered trademark of the United States Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (US FIRST). LEGO® is a registered trademark of The LEGO Group. FIRST® LEGO® League and FLL® are jointly held trademarks of US FIRST and The LEGO Group.

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