Robotics Competitions Grow Popular in Southern Illinois


By Evie Allen

CARBONDALE -- It was an exciting and competitive weekend for two communities in our region. Both Marion and Carbondale hosted robotics competitions for the first time.

You won't normally catch a bunch of kids at school on a Saturday, but tell them there's a robot competition and they'll come out by the hundreds.

"People, they realize what we do. What we do is such a good thing that I just want to spread that passion for robotics," says Marion High School student Joshua Craft.

In his senior year, Craft is competing in a robot competition hosted by Marion High School.

"I was introduced to engineering at a very young age and I basically just latched on to it and held for dear life," he explains.

Eighteen teams from five different states filled the high school gym with their own specially named and built-from-scratch robots.    

But Carbondale also got in on the competition. They hosted a different robotics tournament at its high school. Again, teams from different states showed up to compete with their bots. Students say the competition helps develop leadership and problem solving skills. 

"I've taken a leadership role here. And I have to teach people how to do this stuff, how to program especially. And it's a good experience," says Carbondale High School junior Brendan Kristiansel.

Carbondale has had a robotics class for seven years, and Marion introduced the class three years ago. Every year, the classes are growing more and more popular.      

"The first year I would say, 'oh, I'm going to a robotics tournament', and everybody would ask, 'what's that?' Now, when I walk through the halls, they recognize me as that robotics kid."

Saturday's winners will move on to the state competitions. Students say having the robotics class in schools encourages more students to take a career in engineering.

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