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Lifting, Climbing, Launching and Learning: City Schools Students Excel in Robotics

Eight teams will compete at the World Robotics Championships

The game seems simple enough. The VEX IQ Challenge takes place in an arena that has two goals, a series of ladder bars, and 22 balls. Whoever can score more goals and balance themselves on a bar while entirely off the ground is the winner. And while the game may seem basic, the players aren't.

They’re robots! 

This innovative competition is part of City Schools’ robust robotics program of competitions and challenges. Using materials like aluminum, Legos, rubber, motors, and even pneumatic valves, students in schools across the district are working together to build robots that can climb obstacles, balance, move quickly, and accurately launch balls and toss rings into goals. In the process, students learn new skills, grow academically and personally, and connect with their peers. 

More than 500 students on 100+ teams from 60+ schools participate in robotics. According to Noah Smith, a sophomore at Poly and a talented robot builder, participating in robotics has been rewarding and educational. “I learn so much through robotics, and it’s a lot of fun. When things aren’t challenging, I tend to get bored,” said Noah. “But the challenges in robotics help me learn more and to work more with my teammates. It’s great.” 

Students like Noah work on their robots every week - sometimes every day - and compete in monthly district-wide competitions. Top performing teams compete in the City Championships each January at Johns Hopkins University, the State Championships in March, and for some, the World Championships in May. 

This May 5-12, eight robotics teams from four schools - Arlington Elementary School, Baltimore International Academy, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, and Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School - will compete at those World Robotics Championships. It’s the largest number of district teams sent to the World Championships since the first one was held in 2008.

The benefits students find through participating in robotics run deep. They build skills in engineering, programming, and CAD design, but also teamwork, problem solving, and thinking outside of the box - all while having fun. Students are also encouraged to apply what they learn to the CTE pathway - Manufacturing, Engineering, and Technology - further expanding the instructional potential of the experience.

Noah touts the connections and experiences found through robotics in helping him realize his goal of attending college for mechanical engineering and eventually working with robots headed to outer space. “Through robotics, you get to talk to people who will help you understand what you want to do with your future. It’s a really fun experience that’s academic and educational but doesn’t feel that way.” 

These connections and experiences are crucial. As City Schools Robotics Coordinator Gino Tagaytay puts it, “a lot of our students may not know anyone in their lives doing STEM as a career. But robotics exposes kids to STEM and to mentors who come back and share their experiences. It illustrates that kids can make a career out of this. And many have. It’s great to see.”

To learn more about robotics in City Schools or get involved, email

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