Lego robotics teams compete at statewide event Sunday at Fairmont State | News

FAIRMONT− Kids from every corner of West Virginia gathered for the FIRST LEGO League State Championship Tournament Sunday on the campus of Fairmont State University.

Nearly 40 teams with anywhere from two to 10 members ages nine to 14, took part in the first in-person robotics competition since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so many of the teams were excited to compete.

Teams spent over eight months creating an autonomous robot made out of Legos and programming code. They were able to practice before the tournament began and were judged on the robot’s ability to complete programmed tasks out of three tries within two minutes and thirty seconds, successfully deliver three presentations about their robot and the project and the ability to complete the core values ​​of teamwork and cooperation.

“In the over 15 years that I’ve been judging Lego League, I’ve been constantly amazed every year at the quality of the thoughts that students have and their ability to communicate them effectively,” said Todd Ensign, NASA’s program manager. Independent Verification and Validation Facilities Education and Resource Center and head judge.

The theme for this year’s competition was “Cargo-Connect,” which focused on how to improve the transportation and shipping industry.

Marion County had eight teams represented. There were seven from East Fairmont Middle School and one team sponsored by the Disability Action Center. East Fairmont teams included the Gremlin Kids, Lego-teers, Bricks, Oompa Loompas, Patriots, IRS and Bumble Bees. The Colossal Squid Shippers were sponsored by the Disability Action Center.

“They have to come up with their own project and the coach is not allowed to step in and say, ‘Well I think it would be better if you did it this way.’ They have to let the kids come up with the solution and research it and develop a prototype, “Co-Coach of the Colossal Squid Shippers Ann Burns said.

The Colossal Squid Shippers were coached by Ann Burns and Carolyn Thele. They came up with an idea to keep fruits and vegetables fresh while it is traveling to grocery stores and markets. For example, tomatoes that are picked green and treated with ethylene gas to ripen might not taste as good. The team came up with the idea for a truck with a solar roof, so the tomatoes, or other fruits and vegetables, could sun-ripen while being transported.

The Patriots were coached by Barbra Pill, who coached six other teams in the tournament. They researched cargo ships, which use a lot of diesel gas. Their idea was to create a “green version” by using solar panels and water and wind turbines.

Between the two teams, all of the members mentioned different reasons for enjoying robotics and the tournament. Both Pill and Burns said that seeing the teamwork and excitement on their team’s faces was the best part.

“Spending time together. We overall have just built a great relationship together,” said 9-year-old Mason Sole, of the Colossal Squid Shippers.

“New experiences. This was our first time at an in-person tournament, so I was really excited about that,” said 12-year-old Lucy Sole, another member of the Colossal Squid Shippers.

“I like that we code and program the robots,” said 11-year-old Maddox Sanson, also of the Colossal Squid Shippers.

“I like the excitement after you get the mission done. I also like when I get my full mission. My mission’s really hard so it’s exciting when you get it fully together,” said 12-year-old Walter Eshenaur, of the Colossal Squid Shippers.

“I like meeting new people,” said 14-year-old Anthony Corwin, a member of the Patriots.

The tournament helps learn a range of useful skills. They learn how to practice public speaking by presenting and communicating effectively and solving problems, such as disagreements within the team, Burns said.

“It’s such a great competition it incorporates so many life skills and it’s with Legos so it’s tons of fun,” Burns said.

The most important aspect students learn in robotics is respect for other teams and doing the best you can, Burns said.

“Like, we’re way far off from winning. The top score today is going to be in the 400s and the top score that we can get is around 250. So, we were so excited that we reached our personal best. Everyone got their mission done and they all had their missions be successful at least once today, which is what we wanted. So they feel like they have won the competition because that was their goal – to reach their personal best, “Burns said

Simply having an outlet for robotics is something Ensign is excited about. When he was growing up, he didn’t have the opportunity to participate in anything like it, so he’s excited for students now. At the heart of robotics is the goal of getting students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at an early age.

“I think one of the challenges we have in our society is STEM is very important and it affects almost every aspect of our life, but communicating STEM effectively is something we don’t do well. Scientists and engineers may have great ideas, but if we can’t communicate, why is it important? ” Ensign said.

Teams were competing for a chance to attend the FIRST World Festival in Houston Texas on April 20-24. The overall winner was the Tender Defenders. The Clover Stems took second overall, but had the highest robot performance score. The Colossal Squid Shippers took 14th and the Patriots took 34th for robot performance scores.

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