Third-Annual Rally in the Valley Showcases Elementary School Robotics Projects

  • The student teams compete with each other’s robots in a Sumo challenge. Participants must knock-off their competitor’s robot on a 32-inch diameter table. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Students cheer for each other’s teams at the Rally in the Valley robotics event on May 7 in CSUN’s Redwood Hall. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • More than 200 students participated in this year’s Rally in the Valley on May 7 in CSUN’s Redwood Hall. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Students gather around the obstacle course to analyze how to program their LEGO Mindstorm robots to complete the course in the shortest amount of time. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Judges evaluate the students’ robotics projects at Rally in the Valley in Redwood Hall on May 7. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Student teams wait for the judges’ decision on the winning teams. Photo by David Hawkins.

California State University, Northridge hosted the third-annual Rally in the Valley event May 7 in Redwood Hall, to showcase technology and engineering-related projects of more than 200 elementary school students from the San Fernando Valley.

Co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Unified School District and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the competition required student teams to design, build and program Lego Mindstorms robots, challenging other teams for awards.

“We were very excited [about the event] and pleased to promote awareness for parents and educators about the important way STEM-integration (science, technology, engineering and math) events like robotics offers girls and boys diverse opportunities to apply math and science in the problem-solving that engineers do every day,” said Susan Belgrad, one of the event’s main organizers and CSUN professor of elementary education.

Belgrad said the Rally in the Valley student activities, which students prepared for all year long, engaged them in 21st century learning skills: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. Developing these skills can help increase access to college majors and careers in STEM for the participants, she said.

“The teacher-coaches from the seven elementary schools (Stanley Mosk, Castlebay Lane, Pacoima Charter, Haskell, Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter, Victory and Haddon Avenue) have my deepest admiration,” Belgrad said. “Parents were absolutely amazed to see that their children have the capability to program these robots and overcome difficulties by collaboration and teamwork.”

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