R2-D2 from the Star Wars series is one of the most beloved droids out there. Cute, loyal and resourceful, this little droid saves the day many times in the legendary epic. His successor, the spherical-shaped BB-8, also captured the heart of audiences when Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters in 2015. Just like R2-D2, BB-8 is a great friend to the human characters and plays as important a role as they do.

Are you let down by the fact that these droids are fictional? This year, many students and adults around the country got to spend time with real-life androids as they learned about robots’ increasingly important role in the innovation landscape of the twenty-first century. The seventh annual National Robotics Week took place from April 2–8, with a chain of events across the nation related to robotics.

The aim of the week is threefold: to recognize the importance of robotics technology in the United States, to highlight its various applications and potential impact on the future, and to inspire students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. The affiliated events continue to steadily increase in numbers, from 50 events when it kicked off in 2010 to over 300 this year.

The Robot Party in Floresville, Texas, was one of those many events. The party, which took place at the Sam Fore Jr. Wilson County Public Library, included activities such as building a toy rover that runs on remote control; coding with Ozobot, a tiny robot designed to teach code language; and building LEGO WeDo robotics kit. The event welcomed a special guest, George, the library’s own robot. George is a Sphero, a robotic ball that a user can code through an app. Sphero is an eponymous creation from a company that also creates real-life mini BB-8s.

Halfway across the country in White Plains, New York, the Lower Hudson Valley Engineer Expo also celebrated National Robotics Week. During the event, the Carmel High School robotics team demonstrated its robots from the FIRSTRobotics Competition, an international high school robotics competition. As the team talked to the community about the competition, engineering and robots, they emphasized the immense educational impact of robotics competitions, underscoring the goal of National Robotics Week.

For all robot aficionados, National Robotics Week is a great chance to interact with code and even build robots. Next year’s National Robotics Week will take place from April 8–16, 2017.

Did You Know?

More than 400,000 students around the globe are predicted to participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition 2015–16 season, creating a total of more than 37,000 robots.

Photo Credit: Ms. President