WRO Switzerland had to stop the World Robot Olympiad season due to lockdown. Now children are back in school, some restrictions have been removed, and the national organizer plans to have four 'Category Finals' in November instead of one big final.
Four smaller competitions
To get an idea of how to engage their community despite the lockdown, the Swiss national organizer did a survey among coaches. They wanted to find out, if coaches wanted to participate with their teams in a competition later this year or not. 50 out of 58 coaches responded. More than half welcomed a competition in November. A third couldn't make a decision yet, because their students will change classes or schools after the summer break. With this feedback the national organizer plans – together with regional partners- – to organize four smaller competitions in November. Three of them will mix Junior and Elementary categories, the fourth is for Seniors.
"Regional partners will organize these 'Category Finals' instead of the regional championships. Right now we have 65 teams registered for November. We have space for a total of 100 teams. If we can organize it, the winners can attend a Friendship Invitational in 2021," says Monika Koch, WRO Switzerland.
Even though the Swiss government has now allowed events of up to 300 people to take place, there are still a lot of rules to observe, such as a minimum distance of 2 meters. So, to make a manageable event, the Swiss national organizer will limit the November competitions at a maximum of 80 people. Only teams and staff, no parents or other visitors. And the judges and staff have to observe the 2 meter distance rule.
10 new all-girls teams
One of the things WRO Switzerland has been working on is a project to engage more girls in Robotics – called 'Mehr Girls in Robotik'. Every coach who registered a new all-girls team in addition to his registered boys team, received a robotics kit from LEGO as a present for the girls.
"In cooperation with the Swiss Science Olympiads, we were able to give away 10 robots thanks to the financial support of a fund for gender balance," says Monika Koch.
Most of the girls teams did not receive their robots before the lockdown, but the prize was waiting for them in their schools. Despite the lockdown, seven of the ten teams are still going to participate in this year's competitions in November. The three remaining teams are undecided, because their coaches change classes, but they will decide before the summer holiday in July.
Had WRO Switzerland held their regionals in May as planned, the new all-girls teams would have taken part in the normal competition. With the existing registered teams, that means there would have been 32 all-girl or mixed teams. The girls who benefited from the project last year would also have been back again. Compared to 2019, the number of girls in WRO Switzerland has more than doubled. So the initiative has significantly increased the number of girls registered. Monika Koch says:
"A new sponsor has been found so we can repeat the 'Mehr Girls in Robotik' success next year, and once more give away 10 EV3 robots to new all-girls teams in WRO."