Lego Robots and Science After School

I went to a robotics competition for kids yesterday at a middle school in Sterling. It was pretty cool. About 200 students designed, built, and programmed their own robots using Legos, and then sent them out on various timed missions to pick up or move balls or objects along a pre-set course. All while their teammates cheered them along.
Here's the story.

I can't say I ever did anything like this when I was in school. I don't know if they even had things like this when I was in school.

I'm thinking of joining the JV math club at Fairfax High, and I'm interested in all things extracurricular that have to do with math or science. I'm sure there is a wide world out there that I have not seen. I've heard about MATHCOUNTS, for younger students, and some of the more elite competitions for high schoolers, like the Intel Science Talent Search and the USA Biology Olympiad. But I'd like to compile a longer list of mathletic or science competitions, if you can send me suggestions. If you have participated in any personally, how did you get into it? What was it like?

By Michael Alison Chandler  |  November 17, 2008; 10:12 AM ET  | Category:  Math Resources , Mathletics
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Michael, you're labeling yourself as a nerd. Congratulations! :-) I had a few math-related activities on my college applications...

Odyssey of the Mind is a national organization with a lot of different categories of competition every year that span a wide range of skills. One year, our team decided to do the structures project - we had to build a balsa wood tower that could hold a weight while being pummeled by billiard balls rolling at it. Another year, the team decided to do a performance that involved me dressing as a Fred Flintstone-style caveman, for reasons that now escape me. So they don't all involve math and science, but many of them do.

I was also in Hi-Q, which is basically team Jeopardy. It wasn't math and science specific, but it included some pretty tough math and science questions.

Then there was Mu Alpha THeta (MATH...clever, huh?), which was the math club at my HS. It was mostly tutoring, but we went to a couple of competitions a year. As a matter of fact, I was cleaning out the file cabinet a couple of weeks ago, and ran across a packet of around 50 questions that we had done for a mail-in competition. It was pretty heavy stuff, some of which I couldn't answer even now. But it was also fun to take a look back at my HS self. I wish I'd found that in time for my 10 year reunion, and now that I think of it, I hope I didn't toss it in the trash pile...

Mostly I got involved in that kind of thing by having my arm twisted by friends who were already involved. But all of them were a lot of fun (as was most of high school, looking back). I really enjoyed the competition, both between and within the teams. We took trips all around the Central Florida area, including Tampa, Stetson, and Disney World, met new people (one of my buddies got a girlfriend at a nearby school out of it), and challenged ourselves constantly, which helped me realize that I didn't actually know everything at 16.

Posted by: tomsing | November 17, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Almost all of our honors and AP students compete in the school science fair and the winners go on to the fairfax regional fair (held at Robinson every spring) - that you should check out for some amazing work done by kids (and not just TJ kids).

There is also a great many science competitions for high school students - there is a chemistry olympiad as well, a general science olympiad, the Toshiba Exploravision competition (, the Alliance for Science ( and the Dupont challenge (

Posted by: annwhite1 | November 18, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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