Showcasing their budding high-tech skills and their well-established sportsmanship, more than 350 students from more than a dozen schools participated last weekend in the fourth annual Rally in the Valley, a celebration of coding, robotics and engineering.

Held at the Matadome auditorium at Cal State Northridge, the daylong tournament consisted of a research and development component and five categories of friendly competition: an obstacle course, follow-the-line, “space” challenge, team talk and “sumo” matches in which robots engaged in one-on-one combat.

Fifth-grader Bowen Quan, left, from Pacoima Charter Elementary, uses his math skills to take precise measurements and calculations in effort to advance in the fourth annual Rally in the Valley competition.

Stanley Mosk Elementary School Assistant Principal David Garringer, a key organizer of the event, helped to welcome the more than 1,000 participants, spectators and special guests including Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield; Kevin Taylor, representing the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Michael Spagna, vice president of Academic Affairs at Cal State Northridge.

“I am humbled and honored by the growth of the Rally in the Valley robotics challenge and the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics Expo,” Garringer said. “It continues to grow in size and complexity, which is a testament to the coaches and teachers who are promoting the 21st century skills, such as coding, engineering and robotic design.”

The event was emceed by Oscar Rios, a fifth-grade teacher at Mosk, and a member of the rally’s planning committee.

“Mr. Rios has long been an advocate for STEAM education and the importance of teaching students programming skills from an early age,” Garringer said. “He has been involved in Rally in the Valley from the start, and has been instrumental in helping it grow.”

“I was reminded of exactly why I got into education in the first place: the raw passion the students have for science,” said Dr. Brandon Rodriguez, a professional development specialist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Seeing kids move among simple paper rockets to Legos to advanced programming with such excitement is evidence of just how innately they want to explore science with their hands and minds. I hope teachers will continue to keep the momentum going forward and give our students more opportunities to build on this great event.”

Participating L.A. Unified schools included Canoga Park, Hart Street, Stanley Mosk, Plummer, Stonehurst and Victory Boulevard Elementary schools; Castlebay Lane and Encino Community charters; Haddon STEAM Academy; and Haskell STEAM Magnet.

Mosk took the top spot in the space challenge, Encino Community Charter took first in the team talk challenge, Haskell STEAM Magnet took first in follow-the-line and Haddon STEAM Academy won the sumo challenge. The obstacle course was won by Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter.

“Robotics is such a great way to get our students to communicate, collaborate and think critically beyond the boundaries of the traditional classroom,” said Haddon Principal Richard Ramos. “I am proud to see our students employing such important skills at Rally in the Valley.”