East Bay students roll into First Lego League qualifier


Students from Kickemuit Middle School, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School, Barrington and Portsmouth Middle schools were among those that fared well in their attempts to secure a place in the upcoming First Lego League state championships. One team from Kickemuit and two from OLMC were among 16 teams competing in the qualifying challenge held at KMS on Saturday, Dec. 1.

Students who participate in the First Lego League program learn to build robots out of Legos, designing mechanical features to accomplish any number of tasks they can attempt on the challenge course. Equipped with a computerized “brain,” the robots are programmed by the students to move along a game surface to perform a variety of objectives. Each objective has a point value, adding an element of strategy, as well as functionality to the competition.

For some teams, the qualifying events are the first time they get to use their robots in competition. For others, they look for opportunities to test their skills against rival schools.

“We had a scrimmage in Barrington in November,” said KMS coach, Stephanie Wirth. “They learned a lot then. It’s all a learning experience.”

This year the theme of the competition is called Senior Solutions, highlighting the needs and issues that affect the aged. 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 one-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 standings.

On Saturday, Lynne Towers, the Lego coach at OLMC, liked her teams’ chances during the competition.

“We’re the last team to go on every round,” Ms. Towers said.

Knowing that the judges take the best score of three attempts, they used the opportunity to learn by watching the other teams compete.

Teams that did not make Saturday’s cut still have other qualifying opportunities, with one being held on Sunday, Dec. 2 at St. Mary Academy Bay View, and another on Dec. 8 at North Kingstown High School, North Kingstown.

When 64 teams meet at Roger Williams University on January 12 to compete in the 2013 First Lego League robotics state championships, they will be competing for the opportunity to move on to the World First Lego League championship in St. Louis, Missouri.

Among the award recipients at qualifying event are:

Core Values Award – BAZINGA, Kickemuit Middle School

Championship Award – Purple Dragon Eagles, Barrington Middle School

Robot Performance Award - Purple Dragon Eagles, Barrington Middle School (for event high score 340 points)

East Bay teams Bazinga, Purple Dragon Eagles, 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.


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