After weeks of trial and error, Oak View Elementary School students showcased their robot-building skills Tuesday in the Ocean View School District's third annual Robotics Competition.
About 150 students from Mesa View and Vista View middle schools and Oak View, Lake View and Westmont elementary schools competed at Mesa View in Huntington Beach.
For most of the schools, it's a yearly event. But for Oak View Elementary, it was a completely new experience.
"I was learning as they were learning," said Patti Schraff, the Oak View teacher who was overseeing the school's competing fifth-graders.
Students learned the basics of robotics during an eight-week course, Schraff said. Then they relied heavily on YouTube videos to help them build and program sensors in their Lego Mindstorms EV3.
In order to compete, the robots had to have light and ultrasonic sensors.
Students set aside three hours each week to work on their robots and visited Schraff's classroom during recess, lunch and after school.
The Friday before spring recess, five of the 11 robots failed, which required additional work on the machines, even after school let out, Schraff said.
"It's taught us perseverance and to keep going," Schraff said, tears welling in her eyes. "My favorite part is watching my students conquer and overcoming obstacles and making it work. This is their moment."
Schraff cheered on her students Tuesday, jumping up and down and giving high fives during the final Sumo Bot portion of the event.
In that challenge, two teams placed their robots in the center of an elevated circular platform. The two robots faced off, trying to knock each other off the platform. If both fell off, the first to touch the ground would be the loser.
Fifth-grader Arely Quiroz, 11, said she joined in because she wanted to experience something new, even if her team didn't win.
"It's all about trying your hardest, even if you're stuck," she said. "We'd go around and see how other groups were doing it."
The building process challenged the students to use their problem-solving skills.
"I'm amazed with how technology works," said fifth-grader Kevin Naciel, 11, who aspires to work in engineering and technology. "I told my parents about the competition and they told me, 'Good. Learn more.'"
Fifth-grader Andy Arizmendi said he wants to ask his parents for his own robot so he can start a robotics club in his neighborhood.
In the end, Oak View made it to the semifinals of the competition. Vista View Middle School took top honors.