More than 1,000 K-12 students expected to participate at Nebraska Robotics Expo

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Students play a maze game by piloting a CEENBot robot through the course at the Nebraska Robotics Expo.
Students play a maze game by piloting a CEENBot robot through the course at the Nebraska Robotics Expo.

The Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum near Ashland will host the 2020 Nebraska Robotics Expo on Saturday, February 22, with more than 1,000 K-12 students registered, plus team leaders and math and science teachers from Nebraska and the surrounding area.

Teams participate in two robotics competitions – the CEENBoT Robotics Showcase and FIRST LEGO League. The event also offers a Creative Visual Arts Expo showcasing more than 90 art pieces by K-12 students from five participating schools, along with activities for the general public, including a robot drawing and art activity, CEENBoT games featuring prizes, sponsor booths and exhibitor robotics and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) displays.

This year’s expo has seen a sharp rise in the number of students and teams participating, particularly in the CEENBoT Showcase, which has grown by nearly 50 percent to an expected 540 students on 140 teams, including 20 all-girl teams.

“It’s so exciting, 11 years in, to see this type of growth and excitement about the expo,” said Alisa Gilmore, director of the expo and associate professor of practice in electrical and computer engineering at the UNL College of Engineering. “It’s through the sustained support from our sponsors and from the K-12 educators that we are able to reach so many children with STEM opportunities.”

The CEENBot program has its roots in the Silicon Prairie Initiative for Robotics in Information Technology (SPIRIT) grant project, funded by the National Science Foundation and providing an instructional foundation for teachers in the use of robotics to teach STEM concepts. The CEENBot program also combines the technical expertise of faculty, staff and student volunteers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering with educational expertise from the University of Nebraska Omaha College of Education.

In the FIRST LEGO League competition, more than 400 students design, build, program and operate LEGO-based robots with MINDSTORMS technology. The competition requires the teams to find innovative robotics solutions to a challenge.

In its 11th year, the Nebraska Robotics Expo will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the museum. The opening ceremony is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. in the museum’s lower atrium, and competitions will run throughout the day. 

Those planning to attend will have to pay the cost of admission to the museum. Go to the museum’s website for more information about tickets and parking.

The 2020 Nebraska Robotics Expo website contains more information and the event program.

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