WWU Hosts the North Pacific Regional Robotics Challenge

Visiting Students Connect With School of Engineering

By: Camlynne Waring

A team of homeschoolers from Stanwood, Wash., the Gigabytes, won the North Pacific Regional Robotics Challenge for the third year in a row.

For the seventh year, Walla Walla University hosted 16 teams of students from throughout the Northwest who were here to participate in the Adventist Robotics League’s North Pacific Regional Robotics Challenge April 8. This event encourages young people ages 6-14 to stretch their minds and test their skills in building models and robots to solve various physical, social, and environmental problems.

This year’s theme was “Food Factor: Keeping Food Safe,” which challenged teams to imagine how we can use technology to improve the quality of food.

“We believe that this event stimulates young people to think about science and technology and that some of them will ultimately go into these kinds of careers,” said Douglas Logan, dean of the School of Engineering.

The Junior FIRST LEGO League is for students in grades 1-4.   The teams prepare projects and posters in advance, and then have minutes on-the-spot to build a LEGO creation that demonstrates an idea.

Students in grades 5-8 compete in the FIRST LEGO League.  In teams of three to 10, they create an autonomous robot to perform a task.  Teams are judged on presentation, teamwork, table play for the robot, and the robot design and technical details.

The Gigabytes, a team of homeschoolers from Stanwood, Wash., won for the third year in a row.

Each year, the event includes tours of our School of Engineering and opportunities to explore our laboratories. This year, students were also treated to a tour of Key Technology and a look at the Wilkinson Baking Company’s new bread-baking machine.

“At Key Technology, the participants saw demonstrations of Key’s sophisticated sorting and quality control equipment for the food and pharmaceutical industries. One of the machines was programmed to sort LEGO pieces,” said Logan.

From a marketing perspective, the event is a long-term investment.  “We’re starting to compare today’s enrollment with participant rosters from years ago,” said Jodi Wagner, vice president for marketing and enrollment services. 

The event also reaches the home school population.  “As a marketing event, I think it captures imaginations,” said Wagner.  “It helps them know we are here.”

Next year, the theme is “Senior Solutions” and will ask students to explore the topic of aging and how it may affect a person’s ability to maintain his or her lifestyle–solving issues like getting around, keeping in touch, or staying fit.

In 2013, WWU will host both the regional and national competitions on our campus.


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