400 high school teams from around the world compete in a robot competition. The robots will be challenged to shoot discs through goals as they maneuver around one another and then climb a pyramid.

The competition was launched to inject a little excitement into science, technology, engineering and math education, and educators say the inspiration is working.

In the cafeteria of O’Fallon Township High School, all eyes were on the robot.

The machine zoomed across the room, shot discs through a rectangular goal near the ceiling and climbed part of a tower. And occasionally it broke down, sending four members of the MeTool Brigade robotics team scrambling.

science studentsIt was last week’s final rehearsal for the biggest robotics matchup of the year, a world competition that starts today at the Edward Jones Dome and America’s Center.

“We’re working out all our kinks and strategies,” said Eric Banker, a senior in safety glasses. “Practice makes perfect.”

Banker and about 60 members of the MeTool Brigade will join 399 teams from around the world at the championships for U.S. FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. St. Louis is hosting the event this week for the third straight year.

More than 20,000 teams worldwide have competed to qualify. Six local teams — representing Bishop DuBourg, Wentzville Holt and Timberland, Hazelwood West, Hazelwood Central, O’Fallon Township, and the three Francis Howell high schools — will be among those duking it out in fields half the size of basketball courts. Their robots will attempt to outmaneuver one another, gaining points by shooting discs through goals. And then, they’ll attempt to scale a pyramid in the middle of the court.

The matchups will be loud, timed and intense. And through the experience, thousands of kids will demonstrate their knowledge of programming, and electrical and mechanical engineering.

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