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Sparks Fly for Southside Students During Annual Robotics Competitions

Students at Southside Charter Academy recently had their gears turning, competing in two different robotics competitions, the Syracuse City School District VEX IQ Competition and the VEX IQ Next Level Robotics Challenge at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology (MOST).

Each year the competitions offer different challenges, requiring the teams to accomplish a task utilizing the robot they have built and programmed. The VEX IQ Next Level Robotics Challenge uses a robotics kit that was designed to be simple and easy for students to use. The competition consists of a STEM activity where each year students are challenged to complete an engineering task in the form of a game. 

“The Southside Scholars Robotics are highly competitive during the Robotics Tournaments that they have participated in this season as they compete against teams from the surrounding areas and as far away as Niagara Falls and students from Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Jeff White, principal at Southside Academy Charter School.

At the VEX IQ Challenge events, students showcase their knowledge and skills in designing, building, repairing, and programming a robot, documenting their learning in an engineering notebook, and delivering a STEM Research Project presentation, with minimal adult assistance.

The robotics kits that the students utilized are made of structural pieces that snap together and come apart without tools, allowing for quick build times and easy modifications. A variety of gears, wheels, and other accessories allows for further customization of robots.

“The robotics program focuses on STREAM integration and provides scholars with additional learning experiences outside of our regular school programming. STREAM is a unique approach to teaching that uses science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts, and math to connect the dots for authentic, deep learning for our scholars who participate in the program,” said White.

Southside entered three teams into the competitions, Space Jam, Apollo Dream Team, and the Crazy Craters. Both events were open to students in grades four through eight where families and the public were invited to watch the competition.

“This program has put our school on a whole new competitive playing field! The competition was amazing, and the students were so excited!” said Chrystal Guarasci, dean of middle school at Southside.

This was the second year of the Southside Robotics Club and the second year of participation in this challenge at The MOST. The club meets twice a week during the Robotics Season which falls from November to February.

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About Southside Academy Charter School
Southside Academy Charter School is a tuition-free, public charter school in Syracuse, New York, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes over 95 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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