Barrington Middle School robots roll through Lego challenge

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When 64 teams meet at Roger Williams University on Jan. 12 to compete in the 2013 First Lego League robotics state championships, Barrington Middle School will be well represented.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, the Purple Dragon Eagles, one of two BMS teams to compete, not only advanced into the finals, but achieved the highest point score for the day.

Since the beginning of the school year, students who participate in the First Lego League program learned to build robots out of Legos. Using mechanical features and a computerized “brain,” the robots are programmed by the students to move along a game surface to perform a variety of objectives, scoring points along the way.

This year the theme of the competition is called Senior Solutions, addressing the needs and issues that affect the older population.

On the robotics course, the obstacles are also based on the selected theme with some of this year’s challenges including balancing, exercising, taking medications and bowling. The robots are allowed two-and-a-half minutes to complete — or attempt to complete — as many challenges as they can, racking up points for each challenge completed.

In addition to the robotics course, students must complete a research project on a theme-related topic and present their research to a panel of judges. That score is averaged into the overall team score.

For that part of the competition, Barrington’s Purple Dragon Eagles team interviewed elderly patients at a local nursing home to get ideas on what activities of daily living are challenging for them.

Coach Gary Monuteaux said Barrington’s Paragon team developed a prototype to assist seniors who cannot bend over to pick up their mail after it is dropped through a mail slot. The students designed a container, attached with hook and loop to place on the inside of a door. When the mail carrier pushes the mail through the slot, it falls into the container, rather than on the floor.

“From there, it’s just a simple matter of taking the bag off the door and bringing it to a table,” Mr. Monuteaux said.

At Saturday’s qualifying competition, the Purple Dragon Eagles walked away victorious, claiming two trophies — the Championship Award and the Robot Performance Award.

Their score of 340 points was the day’s highest, and placed them within the 10 teams to advance to the state competition in January. The winner of that competition will go to the World Lego Championship held in St. Louis, Mo.

Also representing the East Bay, team Bazinga, from Kickemuit Middle School, won the Core Values Award. Besides the teams from BMS and KMS, the Gizmo Geyser Gang from Portsmouth Middle School and Robo Seniors and Wheelchair Workout, both from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Bristol, were among the 10 teams to move onto the state championship at Roger Williams University.

Teams that did not make Saturday’s cut still have other qualifying opportunities.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.