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Large Robotics Competition To Draw Students To Little Rock Next Year

Robotics Governor Mike Beebe
Michael Hibblen

About 3,000 high school students from around the region will take part in a massive robotics competition next year in Little Rock. Details of the event, designed to make key subjects more engaging for young people, were announced Wednesday at the Capitol.

In the governor’s conference room, a robot named Nighthawk sped around, tossing a large ball toward Gov. Mike Beebe and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. They joined with officials involved in the Arkansas Rock City Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, to be held March 4-7, 2015 at Barton Coliseum.

Audrey Timmerman is a high school sophomore from Prairie Grove near Fayetteville and has been active in helping design and build robots.

"The best part about being in this program and being able to go to world and all the competitions is when you’re at a small school or rural school, you kind of feel like you’re the only weird one who likes this stuff, and then you go there and everyone is just as excited about it as you are and then you’re not alone in it anymore," Timmerman said. 

Gov. Beebe said robotics programs are good because they encourage interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"A lot of times young people, and I can speak from experience because I was one of them, (are) scared to death of math," Beebe said, "so you gravitate away from it before you even have a chance to be exposed to it and before you even have a chance to understand that you might be pretty good, at it or you might be at least adequate at it.  So by exposing young people to fun stuff that’s also highly technical and highly sophisticated and requires a significant amount of intelligence in the fields that they’re going to be able to in the future to go on exploit and benefit society and our economy."

Holly Simpson, a 15-year-old from Mountain Home, was among students joining the governor for the announcement.

"It’s opened up a lot of different ideas for career opportunities because before, I never thought that engineering, it wasn’t even an option for me, at least I didn’t think it was.  Now it’s something that I’m a lot more interested in than I thought I would be."

Michael Hibblen is News Director of UA Little Rock Public Radio. A 33-year radio veteran, he oversees the KUAR News staff, plans coverage and edits stories while also anchoring and reporting for the station.
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