Robotics teams from Thrasher and Nolan elementaries and Signal Mountain Middle School each garnered awards at the teams' first competition since the program began in mountain schools last year.
Teams in the competition were evaluated based on their robot design, project presentation and core values.
"[The robotics program] gives students an outlet of creativity when they may not find themselves on stage," said Kathy Taylor, who coaches the Nolan team along with Kathy David and Casey Thompson.
For this year's competition, she said students were asked to use technology to find a solution to a problem involving food safety. The project was judged on the basis of three categories: Research, Innovative Solution and Presentation.
Thrasher students' presentation focused on preventing the growth of a certain type of bacteria on coffee beans which causes serious illness and sometimes death in Third World countries, said Ricky McEvoy, Thrasher team coach along with Julie Bell.
The Nolan team won first place overall in the Presentation category with the "Pathinator," a device food is passed through which detects pathogens and tells how to destroy them.
"We were very proud of our team since this is the first competition we have been to," said Heather Harwood, who along with Kathryn Corley coaches the SMMS team, which placed second in the Innovative Solution component.
The robot design portion of the competition require students to learn basic computer programming, said Taylor.
Twelve teams competing simultaneously earned points for each "mission" they were able to do effectively, and had three attempts to perform each mission, she said.
"It's a very intense, invigorating scene to watch," said Taylor. "It increases their awareness of the importance of being a team player and enhances their ability to express themselves clearly and be able to think quickly on their feet."
Thrasher received second place for "gracious professionalism," which recognizes the team for showing respect for all members of all teams at all times, said McEvoy.
The Mountain Education Foundation and TVA employee Charley Spencer partnered together to establish the robotics program, funded jointly by TVA and MEF through TVA's Partners in Education program, on Signal Mountain last fall.
McEvoy said students must apply to the program and go through an acceptance process. The application consists of several questions and small essays, and teachers are consulted concerning the student's academic abilities.
While only one competition is held per year, TVA hosts a showcase for the students' presentations in the spring, which Taylor said offers the teams an opportunity to show off their newfound knowledge and have questions answered by a team of engineers.
"They want kids to become interested in engineering, as a feeder for them hopefully," said McEvoy.