By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Ask any middle or high school teacher and they’ll tell you one of their challenges is keeping their kids interested in school.  As Mike Schuh reports, Johns Hopkins is helping to make that happen.

Want to see how to get a middle schooler engaged in schoolwork?  Give them a controller and tell them to go build a robot after school.

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“It’s a whole team of new students and they did a good job their first time around,” said  Leroy,  Northrop Grumman volunteer.

It’s called the Vex Robotics Competition.

“We’re trying to get students to get interested in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Hopkins Tournament Director Su Kim.

And build something that works.

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“It can do many things like climb up a ladder and get some points,” said Stephon Moody, Empowerment Academy.

On this day, his team’s robot hadn’t been beaten.  They try to collect plastic donuts.  That simple task has energized kids who may or may not have cared about school, science or robots.

“In middle school, they’re more worried about friends and social groups, so getting them to focus on class is difficult,” said Empowerment Academy teacher Ben Crandall.

“You can try anything you believe in but it might not work,” said Empowerment Academy student Stephanee Moody.  “You can just keep on trying ’til you get it right.”

“It takes a lot of work, really,” Stephon Moody said.

On Saturday, 24 teams battled against each other, learning that failure is a part of success.

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The competition in Florida will be held in April.