Bioscience

Arizona robotics contest will sink if donors don’t step forward

July 13, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

Robotics contest will sink if donors don’t step forward

Every year for the past three years, robot fanatics have gathered poolside in the dark at Chandler High School for a national underwater robotics contest.  The overnight competition began after a group of poor, inner-city students beat a college team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in another robotics contest and wanted a home-grown contest of their own.

But the annual challenge held a month agomay be the last as organizers scramble to find new sponsors for the National Underwater Robotics Competition.   “We’re flat out of money every year,” said Shawna Fletcher, president of Arizona Promoters of Applied Science in Education, which organizes the contest.

Honeywell Inc. sponsored the event with a $10,000 donation that organizers stretched over two years. But as money dried up, so did the prospects of holding another event.  “What would really be nice is if someone would fund (the competition) for five years,” Fletcher said.

The competition, which drew 21 teams this year, is designed to improve science literacy among school-age students. But this year, it was a group of amateur robotics hobbyists that took first and second places. The Typewriter Repairmen, an adult/corporate team, took first place overall, and the Rocket Scientists, another adult/corporate team, took second.

Funding for the competition is evaporating just as the APASE wanted to expand the competition to include air and land robotics using remotely operated vehicles.  “Right now, there’s nobody who’s doing it,” Fletcher said of local competitions. “The university isn’t even doing it.”

APASE is awaiting its not-for-profit, 501(3)c status so it can solicit donations directly from donors rather than using another foundation, Si Se Puede Foundation, based in Chandler, to do the asking.  “As soon as we get that, I’m hitting everyone up,” Fletcher said.

To read the full article: Arizona robotics contest will sink if donors don’t step forward