GEAR Provides Engineering Students with a Glimpse of Their Future

Student mentors prepare for career while inspiring schoolchildren to do the same.

More than 500 robots motored onto the Texas Tech University campus Saturday. Though no time-travelers were included in this go-round, the machines did come from great minds of the future. These robots were conceived in the vast imagination of children assisted by student mentors.

Get Excited About Robotics (GEAR), a nonprofit volunteer organization, invites elementary and middle school students to compete in an eight-week challenge that involves programming LEGO robots to do a series of tasks.

“Their goal is to inspire future generations to consider a career in engineering, science or technology,” said Tanja Karp, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Karp has organized the competition since 2006, when it was merely a trial run held at Harwell Elementary School. It has grown since then. For the past five years, Texas Tech has served as a local GEAR hub for the competition in Lubbock.

The theme this year was “Power Up,” in response to corporate sponsors, Halliburton and Alpha Industries. More than 500 students from 50 schools around the Lubbock area and across the South Plains participated.

“Through participation and LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits, the students learn robot design and programming,problem solving, theapplicationof math and physics,” Karp said.

One of the student mentors who assisted was Megan Nicole Conway, a junior mechanical engineering major from Plano. Conway said she is happy to share her love of science with children who may one day follow her into the engineering field.

“I got involved through a service learning course and mentor for an hour a week at the schools,” she said. “It’s fun to see them get excited when a robot does what they want it to on this eight-foot-by-eight-foot field.”

“The kids used their robots for tasks such as relocating oil drilling rigs, repairing underwater pipelines or delivering solar panels,” Conway said. “Each task depending on its difficulty is worth a different number of points. And they can choose to do as many as they want in two minutes.”

In addition to the scored competition, Conway said awards are given to students in other categories, including the most creative robot, most creative use of tools, and best themed.


Elementary School (K-5th)

  • 1st Place - Harwell Elementary Team 2, Lubbock
  • 2nd Place - Garden City Elementary Team 4, Garden City
  • 3rd Place - Roscoe Wilson Elementary Team 3, Lubbock
  • 4th Place - Harwell Elementary Team 1, Lubbock

  • Pinnacle Award - Harwell Elementary Team 2, Lubbock
  • Best Themed Award - Reddell Academy Home School Group, Lubbock
  • GEAR Head Award - Maedgen Elementary Team 5, Lubbock
  • Judges Award - Garden City Elementary Team 3, Garden City
  • Most Elegant Robot Award - Harmony Science Academy Team 1, Lubbock
  • Programming Award - Wylie Intermediate School Team 1, Abilene

Young Engineers Award

  • 1st Place - Garden City Elementary Team 1, Garden City
  • 2nd Place - Carver Center Elementary Team 1, Midland

Middle/Jr. High Category (6th-8thgrade)   

  • 1st Place - Bonham Jr. High Team 9, Odessa
  • 2nd Place - Follett ISD Team 1, Follett
  • 3rd Place - Reddell Academy Home School Group Team 1, Lubbock
  • 4th Place - Seminole Jr. High Team 2, Seminole
  • Pinnacle Award - Bonham Jr. High Team 9, Odessa
  • Best Themed Award - Kelton ISD Team 3, Wheeler
  • GEAR Head Award - Stanton Middle School Team 2, Stanton
  • Judges Award - Alpine Middle School Team 2, Alpine
  • Most Elegant Robot Award - Alpine Middle School Team 5, Alpine
  • Programming Award - J.T. Hutchinson Middle School Team 2, Lubbock

Young Engineers Award

  • 1st Place - Smylie Wilson Middle School Team 3, Lubbock
  • 2nd Place - J.T. Hutchinson Middle School Team 5, Lubbock


For more information on this program, visit the GEAR website.

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CONTACT: Tanja Karp, associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Whitacre College of Engineering, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3533 ext. 251, or