Oklahoma student robotics teams' competition takes flight

Student robotics teams from four states traveled Saturday to the University of Oklahoma in Norman to compete with autonomous flying drones.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Published: December 4, 2011
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photo - A drone takes to the air as students from middle and high schools compete with flying drones at the University of Oklahoma's Rawls Engeineering Practice Facility in Norman, OK, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
A drone takes to the air as students from middle and high schools compete with flying drones at the University of Oklahoma's Rawls Engeineering Practice Facility in Norman, OK, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. By Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD

Educators have been using robots for years to get students interested in math, engineering and science at an early age, but one robotics program is taking the game to new heights.

The Kiss Institute for Practical Robotics rolled out its newest model on Saturday, an autonomous flying drone that students can fly around a classroom, through their halls and outside; all controlled by student-developed programming.

“We teach about 8,000 kids around the world how to program and build autonomous ground robots and they think that is cool,” said Steve Goodgame, executive director of the nonprofit institute. “But kids are absolutely fascinated by a flying robot. It's over-the-top cool.”

Goodgame said they introduced the drones to a select number of middle school and high school teams to pilot the program.

Four teams — two from Oklahoma, one from Texas and one from New Mexico — traveled Saturday to the University of Oklahoma in Norman for the first drone competition.

“For us, it's such a beautiful fit for Oklahoma; the push for autonomous robotics is there,” Goodgame said.

Aerial emphasis

In Lawton, there's the Oklahoma Training Center for Unmanned Systems, which is an 80-acre site with three landing strips.

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