Texas Interscholastic League Eyes Expansion of Robotics for High Schoolers

The University Interscholastic League is testing out the addition of a robotics program for high schools in the state of Texas. The robotics pilot will begin in 2016, during the current school year, and will include workshops as well as high school contests. The overall interscholastic league was created by the University of Texas at Austin in 1910 and provides educational extracurricular academic, athletic and music contests.

What's being called the "UIL Robotics State Championship" will have two divisions, FIRST and BEST, each affiliated with an existing robotics organization that already runs competitions around the world. Each will run its own pilot. Although robotics programs already exist in the state, the idea is to expand coverage to additional students.

Boosting Engineering Science and Technology (BEST) Robotics runs a "compact" fall schedule and follows a low-cost participation model intended to provide broad accessibility for schools that want to add robotics programs. During the UIL pilot, BEST will provide robotics kits to participating teams after they register for the program, and the organization will sponsor or grant all team registration fees for its existing competition. The initial BEST division championship event will occur in late fall 2016.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) provides multiple programs for students in K-12 and offers championship inter-state competitions. FIRST in Texas is an existing non-profit that already supports robotics teams and events across the state. Working with FIRST in Texas, the UIL pilot program will include the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). The FIRST division championship will take place in Austin in July 2016.

"There is a clear need to prepare today's students for the jobs of tomorrow, many of which are STEM related," said Charles Breithaupt, UIL's executive director, in a prepared statement. "STEM is a top priority for UIL, and FIRST and BEST have a proven track record of success in preparing students for a future in STEM careers through robotics competition."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.