This Saturday the gymnasium of Rolla High School will be transformed into a playground for robots.
For the first time, the high school will host a robotics tournament.
According to Jenny Maples, a robotics team coach and ninth grade math teacher at Rolla Junior High School, this weekend's event is the second of six qualifying events for FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) participants.
Twenty-nine teams with students from grades seven to 12 will compete for a chance to advance to the Missouri FTC Championship at Missouri University of Science and Technology on March 1.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international group that began in 1989 with a mission to engage young people in mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills.
This will be the third year that the Rolla robotics teams will participate. The extracurricular activity for students in grades seven through 12, boasts three robots — each with their own team.
Maples said that there are around 30 students who participate in the program. The team meets Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays during the season.
Fourteen-year-old Jesse Liu said he has been interested in robots since he was a youngster. "I used to watch all those robot movies," he explained. "It seemed like the cool thing to do — to join the team."
Liu added that he has been working on the mechanical side of his team's robot. His team is identified as No. 6168.
"We had some issues earlier in the season but we fixed them," he said.
This weekend's robotics competition is called Block Party. The game challenges teams to move blocks into baskets, balance on a bridge and hang from a bar and earn points along the way.
Maples related that she and her students have been working on the challenge since September and are all eager to see how they perform.
I think we have a good chance," she told the Daily News.
The teams started with a kit of parts which can be used at their discretion to build their robot.
"Each robot has a unique style to the way it operates," added Maples.
Saturday's event is free and open to the public. The games will start at 10:30 a.m. and finish around 5:30 p.m.
Last year one of the Rolla teams won the Missouri FTC tournament at Missouri S&T, which allowed them to advance to the world championships which were held in St. Louis last April.
"The kids are so dedicated, smart and competitive," said Maples. "They are always striving to perfect our robots, and there is always something we can do to improve our robots."