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Students compete in the 8th annual Clavius Project Jamboree

Nearly 300 middle school students competed in the robotics competition at St. Louis University High School on Saturday.

ST. LOUIS — Middle Schools from across the region competed in the 8th Annual Clavius Project Jamboree at Saint Louis University High School on Saturday.

About 300 students represented nearly 30 schools at the competition. The Clavius Project is an afterschool program that brings STEM opportunities to students. Students learn coding, robotics, 3D printing and more.

 At the competition, students had to guide their robots through a series of tasks and were graded by judges on how well they performed. 

The Thomas R. Schilli Foundation donated more than $600,000 to make sure urban and suburban students have the opportunity to participate and learn. Saint Louis University played a big role in organizing the competition.

“It really is just getting young people interested in something to where they will do it on their own,” Jay Hammond, a SLU organizer chuckled. “Our goal is to get kids interested in STEM the same way they like to play video games. They play video games without adults telling them to play.”

By the sizeable crowd, that Hammond said is half the size of previous years due to COVID-19, the strategy is working.

“I think we have a really good friendship dynamic and it works pretty good when programing the robot because we can bounce ideas off of each other and just get it done,” Miles Rodgers, an 8th grader at Loyola Academy said.

Jazmia Brandon is in the same grade, but at Marion Middle School. She was proud to be excelling in a field dominated by males. She hopes to continue down this path while learning, growing and having fun in the process.

“It makes me really proud because things like engineering and robotics, it's not really female dominant,” Brandon said.

Students aren’t the only ones who enjoyed the competition. Lucas Navarro is a senior at SLUH. He’s headed to Missouri S&T next year. But several years ago he was in the Clavius Project program. Now, he’s a mentor at Bel-Nor School.

“It's been a huge joy for me,” Navarro said. “Especially being able to bring my own experiences and the pitfalls I fell into, the things I did wrong. To be able to help the kids at bel-nor with the things they are working on"

The winning team receives bragging rights for the year and a banner to hang in their school. Organizers hope to expand the program to more schools and different seasons to increase competition and learning.

They said it will take several weeks to calculate scores and determine a winner.

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