How a Norfolk startup is helping local STEM students prepare for a regional robotics competition

By Eileen Abbott, January 03, 2022, 10:48am EST, RICHMONDINNO


A group of Norview High School students is especially grateful to be competing in next week’s annual FIRST Robotics Competition.

The school’s robotics team has competed every year since 2006, save for the 2020-21 season because of the pandemic. This season’s six-week competition kicks off Jan. 8, and will be special for the team, which overcame several obstacles to get there. 

Katherine Arroyo, director of the school’s Leadership Center for Sciences and Engineering, said the community stepped up when many of the team’s tools were stolen while the school was closed down during quarantine. 

Norfolk-based startup SVT Robotics heard about the setback and provided mentorship, as well as $2,000, to the team. 

“They spoke to the students as equals … There was no talking down,” Arroyo said. “Everything was very much like, ‘You’re a future engineer.’” 

The FIRST competition will bring Norview’s robotics team together with students from across the region in a challenge that involves designing, programming and building a robot to perform a designated function. 

About 30 Norview students attend each year. Arroy said the competition is inspiring and more about building community than competition against one another. 

“If someone’s robot breaks, other teams will help you fix your robot,” she said. “(FIRST® Robotics) talk to you about alliances and building advocacy for one another, so it’s more than technical skills, it’s life skills.” 

On Jan. 8, teams will learn what their project is and have six weeks to complete the robot before the actual competition, which is held in March in Richmond. Arroyo said during that six-week period, the team will need mentors to work with them through the concept, design and building process. Anyone interested can reach out to Arroyo directly

“FIRST Robotics is a phenomenal organization that relies on the generosity of engineers and others in the STEM field to work with students who have a passion for STEM,” she said. “At Norview, the students really come alive as they see real-world applications for their math and science knowledge, and we consider the robotics program a critical part of the STEM initiative at our Leadership Center for the Sciences and Engineering.” 

The Norview robotics team meets Monday through Thursday, from 2:15 to 6 p.m., on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The team is also working to raise $12,000 from the community to help cover competition entry, lodging, food and robotics-related supplies. 

Arroyo said it is the community support and mentors who help propel students into leaders in the innovation and technology field. 

“The FIRST Robotics organization is such an amazing way for students to apply what they’re learning in school, learn about cooperation and competition at the same time, and learn to collaborate in a way that leads to something meaningful,” she said. 

Link to Article: https://www.bizjournals.com/richmond/inno/stories/profiles/2022/01/03/svt-robotics-mentors-high-school-team.html?ana=brss_2362&scrlybrkr

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