Two Mansfield schools have moved on to the North Texas Regional Championships of the First Lego League (FLL), thanks to their student-built problem-solving robots.
The team from Mary Orr Intermediate was declared the district champions, and the team from Worley Middle School advanced to the secondary qualification round for regionals. The two Mansfield schools were among more than 30 participating at the competition at Burleson High School on Dec. 10.
The First Lego League takes students from around the country and allows them to contribute to solving real world problems using robots that they designed and built. Students pick a problem they can help fix, and build a Lego robot that can do the trick. Students are graded in three categories: the Robot Game, the Project and Core Values.
This year’s theme was Animal Allies, and students were required to focus their robots on helping animals.
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The students from Mary Orr designed a submarine robot to help clean up oil spills and animals in the ocean. Team members Zach Griffis, Noah Barton, Nick Pacardo, Lincoln Hamilton, Nate Woods, Jay Peterson, Pablo Tinoco, Jake Williams and Kailey Butler move on to the regional championship Feb. 4.
And with any project, it takes time for a team to pull it all together.
“We officially met on Thursdays for an hour and a half. However, these students came in early at 7:45 every morning, stayed until 5:30 and came in the Monday of Thanksgiving break,” said Monica Abrams, team sponsor at Mary Orr. “They completed most of their research at home and spent the Friday night before the competition working on their project.”
The submarine gave the students the top prize at the competition, and the build-up from the judges made it all the sweeter.
“When FLL announces the winners, they say three sentences that gives a little hint as to what team they are talking about. I have always told the students to shake the judges’ hands and make an impression. When the judge started reading, ‘This team made an immediate impression by walking into the room and shaking the judges’ hands,’ they became so excited, looked at each other and grabbed their arms,” Abrams said. “I tried to calm them a little saying there are probably other teams that shake hands, but they were having none of that. When our team name and number were announced, the kids jumped up and cheered. It was a very exciting time as they ran down to receive their trophy. When they got back to me, there were hugs, smiles and a few tears. They had put so much effort into this and their hard work was rewarded.”
The student team of Madelyn Limon, Troy Lempke, Omar Rahhal, Kyra Ullman, Aidan Fennell, Reid Rios and Shawn Whipple from Worley decided to work for animals in need with their robot. The team built a robot that works with no-kill animal shelters. One of the biggest obstacles facing a no-kill shelter is having volunteers to work with the animals.
“The robots had to do different tasks with the animals involved. One of the solutions was having the robot sit down with the seeing eye dog (and keep it company). There are a lot of different obstacles and the (robot) has an actual brain that the kids have to program,” said Melanie Bryant, Robotics team sponsor. “They have to build their robots to perform different tasks and the robot has two and a half minutes to complete their tasks. The robot has several motors on it and it’s a pretty impressive thing they have to do.”
And much like their counterparts at Mary Orr, the students had to put in the hours to get their robot to work.
“We had a couple of students take it home and program the robot over the Thanksgiving break. A lot of the students specialize in different areas. We have some that worked on the project part of it, as well as the core values portion of the competition,” said Ashley Owens, Worley Robotics team sponsor. “The programmers took home the board over the break and worked all break on it. We usually meet a couple of days a week to work on it, but the two weeks leading up to the competition we met in the morning and afternoon.”
The Worley team was one of a group of teams to move on to the secondary qualifying round for regionals. If the team places in the top four in the competition in January, they will move on with the Mary Orr team to the February competition.
If the teams do well at regionals, they will advance to the state competition at a time to be determined in 2017.