The University of North Texas Coliseum was full of robots and hundreds of local high school and middle school students Saturday competing in the Boosting Engineering Science and Technology Robotics competition.

The event, organized by faculty and volunteers from UNT’s College of Engineering, pitted students from 17 area schools and their robots against each other.

The competition was the second of its kind at UNT and served to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, said Leticia Anaya, a UNT professor and BEST Robotics program director.

“This is designed to get local students interested in STEM careers,” Anaya said. “It teaches them about computers, technology and a little bit of engineering, but it also teaches teamwork and communication.”

Students also had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the UNT campus, which is an important aspect of the event, Anaya said.

“Our goal is to get them interested in STEM, but we also want to motivate them to go to college,” Anaya said. “We get to bring them to UNT, to the Coliseum. They get here, see this and say, ‘Oh wow, this is a big university,’ which is a big deal.”

The theme of this year’s competition was “Off the Grid” and required teams to build a robot capable of working with electrical linemen. Each team received the same kit and had six weeks to construct their robots and practice for the competition.

Points were awarded for teams’ ability to help restore the simulated power grid by clearing debris, re-attaching power lines and installing residential and substation transformers. Four teams competed at a time on the map lining the Coliseum floor constructed by volunteers from the College of Engineering.

The field of 17 schools was cut down after hours of seeding matches Saturday morning to four finalists representing Bridgeport High School, Grandview High School, the LaGrone Advanced Technology Complex and Westlake Academy.

Following more hours of competition, Bridgeport High School finished in first place with 380 points, besting second-place Grandview High School’s 340 points. Westlake Academy came in third and the Lagrone Advanced Technology Complex finished in fourth.

Students with the College of Engineering helped judge the competition and set up the event. Senior Leta McCabe said she was happy to sacrifice her Saturday, that would have otherwise been spent studying, to help with the competition.

“This is personal for me,” McCabe said. “It’s special because I didn’t have these opportunities when I was younger. To be able to provide this opportunity for these kids means a lot to me.”

JESSE BRACKEEN can be reached via Twitter at @BrackeenJesse.

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