George Lucas Educational Foundation

Collaborating to Compete: Teens Come Together to Put Robots Together

Participation on their high school robotics team provides Colorado students with valuable lessons in applied mathematics and engineering -- and in the importance of teamwork. More to this story.
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Collaborating to Compete: Teens Come Together to Put Robots Together

Let's get it.

Narrator: The members of the Poudre High School Robotics Club are spending every spare moment after school and on the weekends working on a project that would make NASA proud.

Steve: Well, we got the control board, right?

Yeah, right here.

Steve: All right.

Narrator: Their mission, to design and build a highly functioning robot in six weeks. Their goal, to be one of the elite teams in a field of 500 at the first robotics competition, a frenzied test of technical wizardry, teamwork, and strategy that plays out each year in Orlando, Florida.

Announcer: Here we go, the national championship on the line. Our first elimination match from the Archimedes. Oh, ran over there's 245-

This is going to simulate it real well.

Narrator: Thanks to robotics club's partnership with nearby Colorado State University, members gain access to this state of the art robotics lab.

Okay, the robot and the rocket are to scale, but the robot should actually be shorter for him to--

Narrator: Here they test models and plan strategies that they hope will carry the day at the annual robotics event.

We'd have 40 points for the robots because each robot in the end zone is 10 points.

What if there's a robot that balances better than us?

Then they should do the balancing, because as a group we get all the same score and if they can do it better than we can, we should go ahead and let them do it.

Narrator: To score points, a team must work cooperatively with four other team robots in a race against time. Utilizing the unique attributes of the different robots, one robot must come to rest balanced on a ramp while others scurry about moving large balls from one side of the playing field to the other.

Does it have the gyro chip in it?


It does know that it's balanced by the gyro chip?


Nice. Okay, that's good technology.

Narrator: The students also get an opportunity to work with real-world engineers and grad student mentors at the university.

Steve: Engineers are an essential part of the program.


Steve: The kids should be and are right next to those engineers while they're making those decisions. Instead of asking what do we do next, they're asking why did you do that?

Janet: To make it move you have to push down on all kinds of different combinations. Are you guys going to change that?

You can get a programmable controller where you could program code and see--

Steve: And with that, then they're getting that explanation from a real-world engineer, somebody who's been there, somebody who knows how the whole system works.

This is hard. It's hard for her, is it hard for a robot?

Janet: It's the students themselves who are designing the robot, and it's the students themselves who are fabricating the robot. And then it's the students who actually get to see it come to life. Well it shows what you can do yourself and how you can apply the knowledge you've learned, but then it also shows how much you still have to learn.

Write the dates up for this Sunday.

Narrator: Beyond engineering, team members learn how to organize fundraisers and make presentations to local businesses so they can raise the tens of thousands of dollars they need to travel to the various events each year.

Steve: Yebing is going to put together a website for us that's going to be--

Steve: There's people that do travel, there's artists that we need, there's marketing, there's documentation. You bring in this eclectic group of kids and they get to work with each other. And that's something that a lot of extracurriculars do not give you the opportunity to do.

Narrator: The Poudre High team finally saw their hard work pay off at the regional competition in San Jose, California. Their robot performed admirably and was able to lend a helping hand to a robot in distress.

Tyson: I've learned an incredible amount. Just through working with mentors and my peers and going through the engineering process has really given me kind of an experience of what engineering is actually like.

Steve: It's the culmination of six to eight weeks of intense hard work and finally it's you in the spotlight being celebrated for what you've done. You have a passion and once you have passion, what can stop you?


Good job!

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis
  • Leigh Iacobucci

Associate Producers:

  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Roberta Furger


  • Karen Sutherland
  • Leigh Iacobucci

Camera Crew:

  • Samuel Allen
  • Warren Berman
  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Jon Miller
  • Kathryn Peterson


  • Susan Blake

Additional footage courtesy of


Special thanks to

  • Warren Berman

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