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Southworks Robotics Olympics event attracts 21 high school teams for electrifying STEM competition

More than 250 Southland high school students from 21 schools competed in the second annual

Southworks Robotics & Engineering Olympics at South Suburban College on April 14.

The event involved six competition options that enabled each team to select a competition (or multiple competitions) that was consistent with the resources and capabilities of their school.  Options included SUMO (radio-controlled robots that can survive for 3 minutes against other robots inside of a 12-foot diameter ring), VEX (a cone-stacking match), Autonomous Racer, S Bricks (app controlled vehicle built with Lego motors), Catapult (projectile launching) and Pathfinder (robots that can follow a black line).

This year’s winners were:

  1. SUMO Survivor: 1st Marion Catholic, 2nd Illiana Christian, 3rd Lincoln Way Central

  2. VEX Challenge: 1st Mount Carmel, 2nd Homewood Flossmoor, 3rd Rich Central

  3. Autonomous Racer: 1st Illiana Christian, 2nd Eisenhower, 3rd Lincoln Way Central

  4. S Brick race: 1st Hillcrest, 2nd Tinley Park, 3rd Crete-Monee

  5. Catapult: 1st Lincoln Way Central, 2nd Illiana Christian, 3rd Andrew

  6. Pathfinder: 1st Thornton, 2nd Illiana Christian, 3rd Tinley Park

The annual Southworks Robotics event provided exciting, hands-on STEM learning experiences through business/education partnerships that build the current and future workforce needed by the manufacturing industry. Building on the momentum of the first Southworks Robotics Olympics in April 2017, CSEDC, OAI, Inc. and Three Seeds Mentoring Group inspired the development of 21 robotics teams, all of whom were sponsored by a local manufacturing company that has committed to offering both financial support as well as hands-on mentoring.

An integrated workforce, economic development and education strategy has proven effective in supporting and expanding manufacturing businesses in the Chicago Southland. The region’s economic development corporation, CSEDC, partnering workforce non-profit, OAI, and partnering youth development non-profit Three Seeds Mentoring Group have listened to members of the manufacturing industry sector partnership express their resounding concern of an aging workforce and the need for a younger talent pipeline, not currently being met through traditional training programs. The concept, much like other more well-known robotics competitions brands, encourages high-quality work, emphasizes ethical learning and valuing others, while also providing critical exposure to career pathways in manufacturing and simultaneously introduces companies to the young talent they seek. This model creates opportunities for companies to invest in their workforce supply chain and contribute to their local schools in the process.

“There is no better way to keep kids engaged in school and exposed to future tech careers than robotics teams and the anticipation of a competitive tournament in the spring,” said Mollie Dowling, Executive Director of OAI and one of the event organizers.

“The Southworks Olympics has created a regional platform that enables our companies to make investments in the Southland because they know that they will be able to find the skilled workforce they need to succeed,” said Reggie Greenwood, SSMMA and CSEDC Deputy Executive Director of Economic Development.

“Robotics competitions of this magnitude, allow industry leaders an opportunity to interact with high school students (and eventually middle school students) to form relationships that can alter two disparate group perceptions of each other,” said Mark Kramer, Manufacturing Coordinator for Rich Township High School District 227. “Students will learn directly from manufacturing leaders what a career would look like in this industry.”

Industry leader Charlie Gallagher, President of Gallagher Asphalt and 2018 recipient of the Big Shoes Award stated “It is imperative that we attract young people who are excited about applying advanced technology to manufacturing products. Also, I’m always impressed by the caliber of the students involved. It makes me optimistic for our future.”

For more information on OAI, Inc. or the Southworks Robotics & Engineering Olympics initiative, please visit, or call Mollie Dowling at (312) 528-3555. Click here for a video of the event, or here for more photos.

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