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Posted: 1/09/18

FIRST Tech Challenge Brings Robotics Teams to TAMIU Jan. 19 - 20


Dr. Tariq Tashtoush
Dr. Tariq Tashtoush  

For the ninth year, Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) will be the site of the FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC) Qualifying Tournament for Laredo and United School Independent Districts Friday Jan. 19 and Saturday, Jan. 20 at the TAMIU Student Center Ballroom.

The public is welcome to attend the competition. It will be underway Friday from 5 – 9 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Some 27 teams, 15 from United Independent School District, and 12 from Laredo ISD, will compete. The event brings over 400 middle and high school students, mentor and coaches together in a robotics competition based on a sports model, said TAMIU assistant professor of Engineering, TAMIU School of Engineering, Dr. Tariq Tashtoush.

“Competing teams are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Participants call it ‘the hardest fun you’ll ever have.’ Guided by adult coaches and mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and sharing ideas. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year, and can be programmed using a variety of languages, including Java. Teams must also raise funds, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach to win awards. Once awarded, they can also have access to tens of millions of dollars in college scholarships,” Dr. Tashtoush noted.

TAMIU’s School of Engineering has joined forces with its Society of Hispanic Engineering (SHPE) and TAMIU DustyTRON, DustySWARM Robotics NASA teams and DustyMOTOR teams.  Tashtoush said this is the second year of the collaboration. Together, students and TAMIU faculty and employees serve as coordinators, organizers, judges, referees and Tournament conductors and facilitators. The local championship event is an important stepping stone to qualify to compete in the State competition and advance to national and possibly international competitions.

Tashtoush said the Tournament is highly competitive and fun to watch.         

“Teams spend a significant amount of time designing, building, programming their robot, and learning what it takes to be part of a team. For many teams, competitions are the reward for all their hard work throughout the season. However, teams are also eligible to win multiple judged awards. The judged awards represent a positive way to recognize teams who embody important values like Gracious Professionalism™, teamwork, creativity, innovation, and the value of the engineering design process. Prizes are awarded in different categories. SHPE and I have been mentoring teams, managing and coordinating local league meets for the last three years and it’s truly an exciting experience for us all.”

Tashtoush said the initiative is closely tied with the outreach mission of TAMIU and its School of Engineering.

“We actively promote STEM and engineering in local schools. While FTC is targeting only middle and high school students, we also work with local elementary schools through the First Lego League (FLL) which offers fun, safe and age-appropriate experiences,” he said.

The TAMIU School of Engineering offers a B.S. degree program in Systems Engineering, which is accredited by the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission, a non-profit, non-governmental organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.  In addition, the School offers minors in Petroleum Engineering and Computer Science and a pre-Engineering curriculum that allows students to transfer to Engineering programs at  different schools such as at Texas A&M University and Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

For School of Engineering information, visit or call 956.326.2408.  TAMIU Spring 2018 classes begin Tuesday, Jan. 16.

For more information on the national FTC competition, visit

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