Whenever we go to the children’s museum, my daughter’s favorite station is the one where you program the robot to collect balls or go through the obstacles or whatever the challenge is at the table. So, when I told her she needed to join a club or pick an activity for this school year, it was no surprise that she picked the Robotics club.
The Robotics club consists of 20 fourth and fifth graders who learn coding by building and programming robots to complete simple tasks. As part of the club, they also complete scientific and real-world challenges set forth by the First Lego League (FLL)
The goal was to send a group of students to a FLL competition in January. This would be only the second year that her school has sent a team to the competition. The previous year her sponsors said they were overwhelmed by what the other schools did. To better prepare, this year they went to a training session in October. (Lexie opted not to go to that as she didn’t want to give up a Saturday.)
While she liked robotics, I think she didn’t care for some of the other students in the club. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to go to the competition (which would take up a whole Saturday.) I encouraged her to give it a try. She applied and was selected as one of the 10 students to go.
At the end of January, they went to the competition which consisted of 24 teams from area elementary and middle schools. There are several parts of this competition. The first is the Robot Games. Two students on her team were to program their robot to do as many of the 14 tasks set up on the board as they could get done in 2 1/2 minutes. They get three tries and the best score would be their final score for this part of the competition. Lexie’s team ended up 14th after the third round.
The rest of the competition is divided into three parts: robot design, project and core values. Robot design deals with building a mechanically sound robot that is durable, efficient and capable of performing the challenge missions. The judges look at mechanical and programming efficiency as well as the students’ design process.
For the project section, each team identifies and researches a real-world problem and presents a possible solution. They don’t actually have to physically solve the problem but must explain how they would develop and test their solution. Lexie’s team tackled the poor tasting food astronauts eat when they are on space missions. One of the requirements is to consult someone in the field. Luckily for Lexie’s team, one of their student’s grandfather is a former NASA employee and he shared his expertise with the group. As part of their presentation at the competition, Lexie wrote a skit that her team performed before answering questions.
And the last area is core values which focuses on enthusiasm, team spirit, inspiration, exceptional partnership skills and demonstrating respect for their teammates and supporting/encouragement of fellow teams. They had to answer questions and perform a few group tasks for this part of the competition.
I don’t know what goes on in the room where they make any of these presentations as parents and team sponsors are not allowed in. The judges want to see just the work that the children actually do. But I did get to see the Robot Games and because they needed help, I volunteered to be the scorekeeper for the games. (That was fun. I learned a lot about the competition and even got a free lunch.)
At the end of the day, it was time for awards. Ten teams would win an award (first thru third in the areas of design, project and core values plus the Champion’s Award.) The top seven teams would also advance to the finals to be held in March.
Lexie’s team placed third in Core Values. The kids were thrilled. But none of us expected the next news…they were in the top 7 of the competition! Wow! And now it is onto the finals in March!