Strafford students nuts and bolts about robots

By Alyssa Andrews

A typical Saturday morning for any 5th or 6th graders should consist of cartoons and sugary cereals, but that’s not the case for a number of Strafford students. They spent the morning of Dec. 11 at a robotics competition.

Strafford schools hosted their very first robotic competition on Dec. 11, for surrounding schools as well as having a few of their own students competing. Roughly 20 students, grades 5-6, have been working diligently since the beginning of the school year to learn how to code and assemble their very own robots.

The robots are designed based on FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) LEGO league’s annual challenge. The challenge instructs students to research a real-world problem and encourages them to develop a solution. Students design, build, and program a robot using legos and compete with it on a table-top playing field.

This year’s challenge was more relevant than ever since the recent pandemic: shipping. The robots were programmed to efficiently transport a number of shipping containers in a small scale simulation. The competitors also met with judges to discuss their problem solving methods, creativity and the project’s authenticity.

Three teams composed of students ages 11-13 represented Strafford schools at the event. Strafford’s team Señor Pollo won overall in the robot design for their division at the competition. Strafford student Ruby Taylor, was proud regardless of the day’s results.

“I think it’s super cool to see what you can accomplish in a short amount of time,” Taylor said. “And seeing all the teamwork that goes into making the robot. It’s a ton of fun. ”

Physical science teacher and Robotics coach Chris Peterson believes robots will play a large role in the future and thought what better way to prepare his students than teaming up with FIRST.

“By 2030, robots could replace 40% of all service jobs,” adds Peterson. “They’re going to be interacting with them with their jobs, so whatever little they can learn and be exposed to, that’s just great.”

The robotics team started over four years ago and has steadily grown. It originated in Strafford’s high school and has since expanded to over 30 students between the ages of 11-18. Coach Peterson adds that the FIRST program offers many opportunities to students who choose to join.

“Not only is the STEM program focused, but FIRST has a large amount of scholarships available to kids in the program,” Peterson explained. “Our past club president received a full scholarship and several members have entered the air force. That sold me on the benefits of FIRST. ”

The school’s robotics team, who helped referee the LEGO competition, have made quite the name for themselves. The team goes by “Arrow Flight” and has placed in the top 10 of their conference, which ranges from Jefferson City to Witchta, Kansas, for the past three years. Currently, the Strafford’s robotics team works closely with the Springfield robotics program, which has allowed for many opportunities. Coach Peterson is hopeful that their success will continue and encourage other schools and students in the area to join

“We hold our own, especially here in southwest Missouri,” Peterson said. “We also have a great working relationship with Springfield. We lean on each other so when we travel to Kansas City or St. Louis we can compete with bigger schools and programs. ”

To follow along with their success or find out more about the Strafford’s robotics program, email Chris Peterson at

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