LEGO Robotics Challenge Results In

Kids get excited about engineering

By: Becky St. Clair

A WWU student, acting as referee for the event, helps students from Olympia Christian School set up their robot.

On Sunday, April 12, twelve teams of students from around the Pacific Northwest participated in the 2009 North Pacific Regional Robotics Challenge held at Walla Walla University.  The students ranged in age from 6-15, and some came from as far away as Montana.  This year’s theme was “Climate Connections.”

The younger students in the event spent months ahead of time working on a LEGO display demonstrating what climate means, and a collection tool to capture an aspect of climate.  The tables were spread with wind turbines, lightning rods, and more. 

The JrFLL awards went to the following teams:

LEGO Brick Buddies (Rogers Adventist School, College Place, Wash.) – Inquiring Minds Award (For taking existing ideas to the next level)
Hurricanes (Rogers Adventist School) – Construction Innovation Award (For creative construction design)
Mini-VACS Attacks (Valley Adventist Christian School, Kalispell, Mont.) – Out-of-the-Box Award (For scientific out-of-the-box thinking)
6 Bricks (Olympia Christian School, Olympia, Wash.) – Intricate Movement Award (For creative incorporation of moving elements)
Lighting (Rogers Adventist School) – Imagination & Presentation Award (For professional presentations & imaginative creations)
LEGO Bucket (Rogers Adventist School) – Robust Design Award (For creating sturdy models of creative ideas)

For the older students, the goal was fourfold.  Each season, the teams are to build an autonomous robot that will, in two and a half minutes, complete pre-designed missions, such as pushing, lifting, stacking, and pulling objects.  They are also evaluated on the design of their robot and their code used to run the robot during the missions. 

The third part of the challenge is to analyze, research, and invent a solution for a given assignment; this year focused on climate changes and solutions to current climate-based problems.  This information is then presented to a panel of judges.

Finally, each group is evaluated on their ability to work well as a team.

This year, FLL awards went to the following teams:

Androids (Spokane Junior Academy, Spokane, Wash.) – Champion’s Award and Best Robot Performance
Mac’s VACS Attack (Valley Adventist Christian School) – Champion’s Award and Best Project Presentation
BotBoyz (Olympia Christian School) – Best Teamwork
Brain Storms (Puget Sound Adventist Academy, Kirkland, Wash.) – Best Robot Design

Other participating teams in the FLL category were the Awesome Onions (Rogers Adventist School), and the Extraordinaire Electrified Eels (Spokane and East Valley District, Wash.).

“One coach told me his students were inspired to do even better next year,” says Marlene Baerg, Associate Dean of Engineering, who organizes the LEGO event each year.  “That is really what it is all about: Inspiring these students in the areas of science and technology.”

Next year’s North Pacific Regional Robotics Challenge will be held on April 11, 2010, again at Walla Walla University.  The theme for next year is, “Smart Move: Transforming Transportation,” and the goal is to demonstrate how to access people, places, goods, and services in the safest, most efficient way possible. 

To register your team for next year’s challenge, sign up by early September 2009 by visiting gofll.usfirst.org.  For more information, visit engr.wallawalla.edu/lego, or call 509-527-2765.

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