Since 2004, thousands of international participants have competed in the World Robot Olympiad (WRO).
This event challenges teams to design and construct robots capable of completing a series of advanced tasks. Currently, 70,000 youngsters in 65 different countries take part in the annual competition. In 2018, two Long Beach Makersville teams advanced to the WRO National Finals.
This August, local students can take part in the WRO qualifier at California State Long Beach. In preparation for the Aug. 3 event, teams are gearing up at local technology summer camps. Throughout the month of July, Makersville is offering a series of week-long robotic workshops in Shoreline Village.
One distinguishing characteristic of the Makersville program is its international component. Last summer, 15 students traveled from China for Makersville camps and WRO competition. This year, 20 youngsters from China, one from Canada, and one from Trinidad will be joining the Makersville program. Makersville WRO teams will be a blend of American and international students.
Makersville founder Patricia Tsoiasue said the program’s multi-national model gives students linguistic and cultural exposure while they work together toward common goals. She said it is vitally important for youngsters to share international experiences and form relationships with people from other countries.
“The future is global,” Tsoiasue said, “and we are creating a global community.”
Makersville recently won a Sister Cities Award for Innovation in the area of Youth and Innovation. According to Tsoiasue, this prestigious international recognition will increase the program’s audience abroad, especially with Long Beach’s sister cities.
Cindy Ramsingh’s 13-year-old daughter Kimberly will be traveling from the Caribbean to join the Makersville program. Ramsingh said that Kimberly is active in robotics at her school in Trinidad and is excited about this learning experience.
“I saw this trip as an opportunity for her to broaden her horizons in the technology field,” Ramsingh said, “and form new friendships and a connection with other students.”
The 2019 WRO theme is “Smart Cities,” so event organizers have created a variety of city-themed problems to inspire students to envision innovative solutions. Tsoiasue’s staff gives children the opportunity to design and build robots to tackle the WRO challenges, but it also offers additional high-tech learning in areas like 3-D facial recognition programs and 3-D printing.
Each year, Tsoiasue brings in expert speakers to engage and excite her campers. This year, Kristen Klassen, trainer of facilitators in LEGO Serious Play, will spend several days with the program. Local high school interns also provide daily insight and guidance to young learners. Teresa Contreras, a 17-year-old intern going into her senior year at Cabrillo High School, describes Makersville’s hands-on learning as an amazing experience for both children and interns.
Donna Shalbey said her daughter Sophia comes home from camp excited about robotics, coding, and collaboration. Parent Sylvia Sances described similar reactions from her children.
“The kids love it and they don’t realize they’re incorporating so many essential skills needed for future careers — team building, inquiry, communication, critical thinking, and problem solving,” Sances said.
Robotic camp is appealing, but its cost can be a deterrent for some families. Fortunately, the Long Beach-Qingdao Association (LBQA) is offering individual and team scholarships for those interested in competing in the WRO. Applicants can find scholarship information on the LBQA website, http://www.lbqa.org/lbqa/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LBQA-Scholarship-App.pdf.