Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama sponsors 2023 SCORE Showdown, partners with Auburn to invest in robotics education for future workforce development

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Premier robotics teams from across the U.S. and Canada competed from Jan. 16-19 in the 2023 SCORE Showdown at Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange, Georgia—an event made possible by a generous $100,000 donation from Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, or HMMA.

HMMA’s donation is part of an ongoing partnership between HMMA and Auburn University’s Southeastern Center of Robotics Education, or SCORE. This partnership provides robotics education opportunities for students to increase their interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, courses and careers, which will provide the future workforce for highly skilled jobs created by HMMA and other advanced manufacturers.

Hosted by Auburn University’s SCORE, an outreach initiative in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, this year’s VEX Signature Event featured 179 student teams spanning three age levels who competed in the VEX Robotics Competition, or VRC, and VEX IQ Challenge, or VIQC—the largest and fastest-growing elementary, middle and high school robotics programs globally. Approximately 1,000 students competed in the four-day event.

On Jan. 17, SCORE and COSAM hosted HMMA’s leadership team at a VIP recognition event which featured a presentation of the Boston Dynamics-designed, robotic dog Mac from Eric Wetzel, associate professor in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction’s McWhorter School of Building Science. In June 2021, Hyundai Motor Group acquired Boston Dynamics, which represented a significant leap toward Hyundai’s overall goal of ‘Progress for Humanity’ by establishing a leading presence in the field of robotics.

Following a check presentation ceremony at the VIP event, the HMMA leadership team toured the live robotics competition field to see students’ countless hours of practice, engineering redesign and team collaboration put to work.

“Back in 2020, HMMA started its connection with SCORE when they partnered with us and Montgomery Public Schools to create the Hyundai Initiative for Robotics Excellence, or HIRE,” remarked HMMA Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Robert Burns. “HMMA is honored to sponsor the SCORE Showdown because developing future innovators can take many different paths—in a classroom, in a lab, or in the dynamic atmosphere of a robotics competition. HMMA sees these robotics competitions as a logical venue to encourage students to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, robotics or mathematics.”

“For over 160 years, Auburn University has trained generations of scientists and engineers who have worked hard to improve the lives of the citizens of Alabama and beyond,” stated COSAM Interim Dean Ed Thomas. “COSAM is extremely proud to partner with Hyundai, and we thank Hyundai’s leadership for their generous support of the SCORE Showdown event by giving both their time and their financial sponsorship. As a global leader in manufacturing, Hyundai has been an important member of the Central Alabama and Georgia community as an industrial partner and strong supporter of science and engineering education. Their support of this event is yet another example of that commitment.

“As we take the opportunity to visit with the students today, we can all celebrate contributing to the development of the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

The SCORE Showdown differs from the other SCORE-hosted Alabama robotics tournaments because competing teams can earn a slot straight to the VEX World Championship from this VEX Signature Event, thus attracting teams from across the country.

The four-member Redwood Robotics team traveled from Saratoga, California, to compete in SCORE Showdown’s middle school division. When asked what robotics means to her, team member Katy stated, “As a girl, I feel very included in my robotics team, and we have a lot of strong girl leaders on our robotics teams. I feel heard in my robotics club.”

Four high schoolers from team Jelly traveled to SCORE Showdown from Groveland, Florida, with a goal of making it to the VEX World Championships for the eighth time.

“We all attend four different high schools, but our team meets on weekends and Wednesdays in the middle of my living room to work on robotics,” said 17-year-old Jelly team member Mattias Peroni. “We love competing here because we’re learning from the best robotics teams and find it super enjoyable to see the long hours of hard work pay off. The competition pushes us to do the best we can.”

His teammate and 15-year-old sister Cecilia Peroni remarked, “I love the hands-on application of robotics with this level of competition. It allows you to learn while doing.”

This year’s SCORE Showdown marked a celebratory opportunity for HMMA to see firsthand the remarkable impact its educational investments and partnerships are having on the development of a diverse and skilled future workforce.

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