Montgomery high school students battle for robot bragging rights in first Hyundai HIRE Robotics Tournament
On November 18, over 100 high school students from Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) competed in the first Hyundai Initiative for Robotics Excellence, or HIRE, high school robotics tournament held at LAMP High School. The competition was a culminating milestone made possible by a $78,800 grant from Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) and partnership between HMMA, MPS and Auburn University’s Southeastern Center of Robotics Education (SCORE) to establish robotics teams and education at all Montgomery public middle and high schools.
Sixteen teams of students from all MPS high schools participated in the inaugural tournament. Using VEX robotics, students participated in qualifying matches held in two competition fields displayed along LAMP’s gymnasium court.
For many students, the high school tournament marked one of their first experiences competing on a robotics team.
Eleventh grader Johnathan Hardy and his teammates from Robert E. Lee High School joined the tournament as first-time competitors but stated they have already learned valuable skills in engineering, patience, teamwork and adapting robotic parts for improved performance.
When asked how he became involved in robotics, Hardy said, “I’ve always loved video games, so my math teacher suggested I get involved with robotics. Driving the robot is what I’ve enjoyed most.”
LAMP High School tenth graders Tyler Stokes and Christian Robinson are also new to robotics and said this tournament allows them to gain more experience after revamping their robot from a previous tournament.
Stokes remarked, “After our last competition, we completely rebuilt our robot for today’s event. Through that process, I gained a better understanding of each of the parts of the robot.”
“We’ve also been able to gather more helpful ideas from seeing other robots today,” said Robinson.
With over a decade of experience coaching robotics, Steve Ballard, Engineering Robotics Academy Instructor at Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School, brought three teams to the tournament and enjoys seeing the camaraderie among teams.
“Along with the technical skills learned, I like to see students displaying sportsmanship at competition,” said Ballard. “I make it a point to have my teams shake hands—win or lose—at competitions. I tell my students that what’s important is to put forth your best effort.”
In 2020, HMMA made an initial $70,000 donation in HIRE Phase 1 to establish robotics teams at all ten public middle schools in Montgomery. Two of the newly established 22 middle school teams advanced to the state tournament.
In January 2022, HMMA presented a second donation for $78,800 to expand robotics programs to all eight of Montgomery’s public high schools as part of HIRE Phase 2. The grant provided each MPS high school with robotics equipment, training for teachers and other resources for their robotics teams.
Through the HIRE initiative and strong partnership between HMMA, MPS and SCORE, more than 200 students and 34 teachers will be annually impacted, providing opportunities for students to learn and increase their interest in STEM courses and careers which will directly impact Alabama’s workforce.
“We are pleased to see the level of interest by both the middle and high school students who are benefitting from our commitment to the HIRE program,” said Robert Burns, HMMA Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer. “We believe whether a student is going to pursue robotics in automotive, or any STEM-related career, it’s important for Montgomery and Alabama as a whole. We see this effort as another avenue to develop a diverse and skilled workforce for the future.”
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