100s of high school students compete in Knoxville robotics competition

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Hundreds of high school students from across the country are in Knoxville to show off the robots they built from scratch. Teams will compete on Friday at a robotics competition at Thompson Boling Arena.

“My sophomore year, I decided to pursue other things I was like, ‘I will do robots.’ I did and ever since, it’s been a blast,” said Brian Leppert, a student competing on Friday.

Leppert’s team and other were not given much time to prepare. They started building these complex machines six weeks ago. They were faced with three daunting tasks. Their robot has to put yellow rings through a rod, shoot plastic balls through a hoop and climb a rope. Mentors and students said this competition is more than just building robots.

“Jobs love them. They get amazing opportunities in the workplace because employers recognize the spark they have,” said Tom Pope, a faculty supervisor.

Pope is one of Leppert’s mentors. He said his students learn everything from coding to business.

“My students get great leadership opportunities. They go from knowing very little about how mechanisms work to becoming masters,” said Pope.

It’s helped other students, like Sebastain Weddle, find a passion. Weddle said it’s an experience that makes him more attractive to colleges with strong engineering programs.

“People would love to have you graduate from college with a good background like this,” he said.

Mentors said the skills learned here are vital for society.

“These professions help the medical field. They help solve complex engineering problems to build bridges and roads,” said George Hanna, another faculty supervisor.

Students had until 8 p.m. Thursday to complete their robots. Matches start on Friday. The event is free to the public.


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