UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Robotic drones, enthusiasm, and young minds were flying high at the CNY Drones ‘Drone Soccer Championship’ showcase that took place at SUNY Poly on Sunday, April 3rd. Local middle and high school STEM educators, student clubs, and afterschool initiatives from New York State were invited to watch teams compete and for a hands-on demonstration of the exciting new E-Sport.
Two teams of five players competed against each other by piloting robotic “soccer drones” into the opposing team’s goal inside a 10×20 foot netted arena during 3-minute rounds. Players could defend or block opposing teams by colliding with enemy drones. Whoever scored the most goals, won. But event coordinators Bob and Lisa Payne had a broader goal of spreading the program’s message to other schools.
“The purpose of the event was to inspire students and educators to bring the program to their schools or their organization. I believe we succeeded in that; we had a good turnout. Guess what, it’s the kids that are going to inspire the teachers or educators to bring this to their school.” – Bob Payne, event coordinator
Bob explained that if the program can expand as they hope, this time next year, a dozen or more teams will be competing for a chance to move on to the national championship in Colorado. They want the program to encourage students to start thinking bigger and start considering a future education and/or employment in engineering, aerospace, and robotics.
“There’s this hole right now. There aren’t people in these fields to work. They don’t know these careers are out there. Hopefully, with a program like this, we can get kids thinking about engineering, thinking about flight, aerospace, and robotics,” said Bill Aumer, Vice President of Technology for U.S. Drone Soccer “It’s doing really well in a lot of the underserved schools too because they don’t even know that this world exists.”
Other event attendees included T.R. Proctors after school robotics program, T.R. Proctors ROTC robotics class, and Cicero-North Syracuse’s Aviation & Drones Technology/Robotics club. When asked what the biggest hurdles were for these schools/organizations to overcome to see programs like this grow in the future, the answer was funding, publicity, and community support.
“As a league that’s just starting off, we’re hoping to have wide adoption to give these students new places to travel and other students and schools to compete with so it’s more compelling for them.” – Bill Aumer