Getting Excited About Robotics! GEAR Challenge comes to Lubbock - FOX34 Lubbock

Getting Excited About Robotics! GEAR Challenge comes to Lubbock

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

More than 1,000 students from across Texas are team up for the "GEAR" Challenge. It's part of an eight week long LEGO Robotics Competition celebrating National Robotics Week. 

FOX34 photojournalist Nick Whisner with the nuts and bolts.

GEAR - Get Excited About Robotics

GEAR provides an exciting hands-on LEGO robotics challenge to elementary and middle school students at no participation fee, with the goal of increasing interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines while offering mentoring opportunities to engineering undergraduate students at Texas Tech University in an effort to improve their education and increase retention rates.

GEAR itself (found at is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) volunteer organization that was created to foster interest among today's youth in engineering, science, and technology. It provides the game rules for the annual competition with instructions on how to build game tables and where to purchase game elements. GEAR also maintains a Question and Answersection on its website. GEAR tournaments are held at various locations listed on the GEAR website.

The TTU GEAR tournament is held annually in during the spring semester. It is open to students in grades K-8 from all schools / after school clubs that are sponsored by a teacher or coach. Sign-up of individual students is not possible. The competition challenge changes annually, but a set of general rules remains the same every year.

The tournament offers a large degree of flexibility in how and to what extent schools / after school clubs want to participate in the competition. In the past, some schools offered LEGO robotics as an after-school activity, while others incorporated the activity into their math, science, technology, or gifted and talented GT classes. Teams meet between once a week after school to five days a week in class. Each participating team must have a LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 or NXT robotics kit and access to a computer / laptop in order to program their robot.

The Challenge and the Robot

During the 6 - 8 week long GEAR challenge elementary and middle student teams design, construct, and program robots using the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 kits or the older LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT kits, which contain structural elements, wheels, axles, gears, motors, sensors, and a simple microprocessor with rechargeable battery. Programming of the robot is accomplished through an intuitive graphical user interface, the EV3 Software, patterned after the widely-used LabVIEW laboratory instrumentation package from National Instruments. Communication between the robot's microprocessor and the computer is done through Bluetooth or a computer's USB port.
The annually changing challenge is designed around a fictive story that motivates the need for autonomous robots (i.e. a robot operating in Antarctica, constructing a moon post, or performing surgery). To solve the challenge, students learn engineering skills through a teaming exercise in designing, building, programming, testing, and troubleshooting their wheeled LEGO robots. These robots then compete autonomously in two minute matches on a 4-by-8-foot game field.

2018 Tournament Information

Due to continued growth of the TTU GEAR tournament, we have added new tournament locations for Trial Run and Game Day to accommodate a larger number of teams.
Teams are strongly encouraged to choose the location closest to them. Schools must pick a single Trial Run/Game Day location for all their teams (up to 8 teams per school / after school club). In addition, they may enroll up to 2 teams for the Virtual GEAR competition. Participation is free of charge, but registration is required. Registration for a tournament site will be closed once the maximum number of teams have enrolled. The highest ranked teams from all locations qualify for playoffs that will be held at the TTU campus.

The competition consists of the following events:

Joint Kickoff for all Tournament sites:

Texas Tech University and Frenship sites:February 10, 2018, Texas Tech University, Biology Lecture Hall, Lubbock, TX

Midland site: To be held in Midland, TX location TBA

During Kickoff the annually changing challenge will be revealed and teams will receive their game mats, game pieces, and the game rules. All participating students and their teachers are invited to attend the kickoff event. Students are not required to attend the event in order to participate in the competition. Teachers/coaches need to pickup game mats and game pieces at the kickoff event or make alternative arrangements (we do not ship mats and game pieces!)

Trial Run and Game Day:

Location Trial Run Date Game Day Date
Texas Tech University March 3, 2018 April 7, 2018
Midland ISD, Midland March 3, 2018 April 14, 2018
Frenship ISD, Wolfforth March 24, 2018 April 14, 2018

During Trial Run teams practice in a competition-like environment together with other teams. It is highly recommended that teams participate in this event to practice and to ensure that they understand the rules correctly and experience a competition environment similar to game day. However, participation is not required.

During Game Day teams compete for points and awards. The highest ranked teams qualify for playoffs (details will be explained at kickoff event)

Playoffs: (for qualified teams from all game day locations):
April 28, 2018, Texas Tech University, Student Union Building Ballroom, Lubbock, TX

Qualified teams from all game day locations compete against each other.

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