Two dozen Boy Scouts crowded into a Hamilton Technical Institute room in Davenport on Saturday and competed with robotics they had built and programmed.

Scouts watched the devices complete various tasks − both in a large wooden box in the front of the room and streamed on large screens that could be seen by an audience of about 50 parents and supporters.

The competitors, ages 11 to 18 years old, were from the Quad-Cities and as far away as Clinton and Geneseo. They separated into groups to build a robot and do the computer programming and engineering.

"Today, they finished up their coursework, and they are competing against each other," said Thomas McDermott, chief executive of the Illowa Council of Boy Scouts, Davenport. The Scouts also showed what they have learned to their parents, he said.

The tasks are all part of the STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, project, a key learning opportunity for Scouts both locally and around the nation, McDermott said.  

The event was held at Hamilton Technical College, and it is fully supported by the institution. Maryanne Hamilton, president and chief executive officer, said she took on the project partly because her father, LeRoy Gilbreck, was a strong supporter of the Boy Scouts in Des Moines.

"When we were young, he used to take us on the Scouts' camping trips," she said.

Her father died a few years ago, but Hamilton supports the cause by donating space and equipment, and several of the volunteer experts come from the college.

The quality of the exercise is appreciated by parents, including the Stinson famliy from Cambridge, Ill. Scott Stinson and his sons, David, 13, and Joshua, 12, are in Troop 123 based in Orion, Ill.

"These guys take such great time and effort to teach these kids what they need to know about the subject," Scott Stinson said. "What they do here is just awesome. I've not seen this quality anywhere else."

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The robot for David's team was programmed to grab a ball and drop it in a box, and it was able to do that several times.

"So far, it's working," David Stinson said.

But Joshua's team robot picked up a ball and put it down. That was a success two times, but the robot failed the job on the third try.

Still, Joshua was upbeat.

"It felt really cool to do this," he said. "It was amazing."