The gears are turning, both in the minds of kids and in the robots they’re working with. Around 1,000 students are in Albuquerque from around the world, with a mission of working together on robotics.
RoboRAVE kicks off Friday at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
For students all over the world, RoboRAVE goes beyond the idea of competition and instead inspires collaboration and teamwork to learn robotics and have fun while doing so.
“Educating students is a huge part of our life and we believe we have a recipe that’s a little different,” said Brian Montoya, Co-Global Director of RoboRAVE International. “Instead of standing in front of the kids and trying to teach them something, we give them an object to do, a challenge to accomplish.”
RoboRAVE, which stands for “Robots Are Very Educational,” kicked off nearly 20 years ago in New Mexico with just 25 high school students and a handful of teachers. Now, it’s about to enter its 30th country and sixth continent as directors continue to work toward global STEAM education and opportunities.
“STEM education: the single biggest product this country can export because every country wants it,” said Russ Fisher-Ives, Co-Global Director of RoboRAVE International. “They’re struggling just as we are. So by bringing STEM, we bring in activities and challenges.
He says seeing innovation in action is great, whether the robot costs $25 or $2,500.
“We want the innovation for the kids who can tear something apart and find the pieces and go, ‘I can build a robot with that printer and that remote control and that car over there. I can pull all the things,'” said Fisher-Ives. “So we see innovation because kids understand how it works. They’re not following a recipe out of a book.”
One of this year’s volunteers started with RoboRAVE a few years ago as a participating student from Zambia. She was inspired to return to New Mexico to attend college at CNM and work with future RoboRAVES.
“My school came here for the first time to compete and we were taken on a tour to different schools and places, and I got interested to come back here and go for school,” said Agape Foh-Amoaning.
A teacher bringing a team from Las Cruces says she’s seen firsthand the community impact of the RoboRAVE.
“They’ve become a team. Even though they’re competing within each other, it’s a family activity,” said Christina Abeyta, a teacher with Las Cruces Catholic Schools. “And we have parents involved, we have community and over 50 sponsors around our city.”
Montoya says the opportunity to expose local students to different cultures through robotics is incredibly rewarding.
“The big thing about RoboRAVE, we have three major goals and that’s fun while learning, sharing and teamwork. And for us, the sharing is a huge piece because it’s not just about the learning. It’s about culture, food, dress, language,” said Montoya. “We talked a long time ago about how it’s difficult to take students to other places from New Mexico, so one of our goals was how can we bring students from the world to New Mexico so our students can still interact with those students.”
For Fisher-Ives, this is a decades-long passion that he’s been able to see make an impact across the globe.
“You can get a tear in your eye when you watch those kids do something you never thought they would. And you say, ‘I’ll bring you back. I’ll go buy you a robot now,'” said Fisher-Ives. “It gets me crying. I’m so emotional about this because I spent the last 18-19 years of my life and I’m now really understanding the depth of what we’ve done and what we’ve got started.”
You can see the kids and robots in action, yourself, this weekend at the Albuquerque Convention Center. The event is open to the public and tickets are $10 for adults and $3 for kids under 16. It will wrap up Saturday afternoon.