After a year in which its students have impressed judges in robotics competitions around the world, Colegio Israelita de Mexico-ORT (CIM-ORT) is looking forward to hosting its own contest.
The CIM-ORT Robotics Tournament in March is attracting interest from schools across Mexico – but the long term aim is draw in teams from around the world in a bid to promote interest in robotics and technology generally.
“We have designed 14 categories to test the skills of teams from elementary through to high school,” said CIM-ORT Coordinator of Educational Technological Innovation Yair Xolalpa. “We want to foment a culture of technology in robotics in other schools in our country.”
It is evident that the other schools have some work to do to catch up with CIM-ORT.
Last year, its teams filled cabinets with medals and trophies from a series of contests – sweeping up top places at six domestic competitions, taking a creditable fifth place at the international Robotraffic competition at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and finishing as the best Mexican team at the massive RoboGames in California.
CIM-ORT’s success in the field is a sign of its transformation since joining the World ORT network in 2010.
“It’s now unique in Mexico in the way it has embraced various technological subjects, such as programming, mechanical design and, therefore, robotics,” Mr Xolalpa said. “Last year I joined some of our students on a visit to ORT schools in Moscow. What my students learned from their Russian peers has helped them to generate more ideas for their robots.”
No wonder he is confident about his students’ prospects in the year ahead, which includes three major international competitions in the first semester alone – RoboGames in the United States, RUNIBOT in Colombia, and Robotraffic in Israel.
“The students are preparing their best designs and raising the level of programming, which is the most important factor after improving their mechanical designs. They have become more confident, ready to compete fearlessly in the knowledge that they have the best prototype,” he said.
Competing has a serious pedagogical value, spurring on students to learn from their peers and teachers.
“Robotics is a subject of the future,” Mr Xolalpa said. “It requires the development of technological skills such as 3-D design, programming, electronics and mechanics that can help our students’ professional careers.”
But perhaps the best thing about it is that the children love it.
“We feel very lucky to be in a school that encourages technological and scientific subjects and which motivates us to take part in competitions,” said Paul Israel, who won the Robomatrix contest in Mexico last year with teammate Mark Volin. “We are given the tools and knowledge to compete well and even win, which gives us great satisfaction. We’re looking forward to our next competition. We’ll give our best and, hopefully, see our school’s name and that of ORT high on the results board.”