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STEEEEEEEEEM! How an evening of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math gave birth to a robot soccer rivalry

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Robots jostle for control of a ball during STEM Night at Toledo Middle School Dec. 16.

Toledo students met on a battlefield Dec. 16 the likes of which the district had never seen before.

Toledo Middle School had challenged Toledo High School to see who could produce a better soccer team though their budding robotics programs. Left to their own devices, each group engineered and built what they felt would make the best defenders, strikers, midfielders and goalies, using what they had learned in the classroom.

"We wanted to try something different and involve the high school," said Middle School Science Instructor Cheryl Stead, whose efforts recently have been part of a national campaign to emphasize STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in the classroom.

Though the middle school had the benefits of home field advantage, the game ended in a high school victory, but only by one point after a match that remained even until the end of the last quarter.

While it had been the high school who scored the first goal, using robots with cage-like arms that fell down around a tennis ball (a robot soccer ball, for that evening), the middle school was quick to reciprocate with goals of their own, using generally-similar designs.

The end of the first half saw the game tied at 2-2, which would have been a respectable score for even professional soccer games, though this game consisted of only five-minute quarters rather than 45-minute halves.

With around 1:40 left in the fourth quarter, the high schoolers managed to gain a 4-3 lead, then defended their way to a victory.

"Our team communicated well, and that's what won it," said High School Captain Corbin Mansker, who stated, though he felt both teams had played well, he could see areas where re-designs and improvements were needed. "It was a good game."

As far as re-tooling the robots, Middle School Co-Captain Larry Demery agreed there was a need on his team to engineer faster and stronger players, stating his advice to those who have never played robot soccer would be: "Make powerful robots."

In keeping with the competitive and creative nature of the game, the high school team was presented with a first place trophy carefully made out of Duplo blocks, with Mansker stating he believes, during games to come, "this trophy will be passed back and forth."

Middle school students cheer as a high school-controlled ball goes out of bounds during the third quarter. The game was largely tied until the high school pulled ahead near the end.

Tablet computers and smart phones served as remote controls for the robots in play, with some such devices being provided by students and others coming from the program itself.

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