Roger Williams University hosts First Lego League Championship


For those outside the Roger Williams University gymnasium on Saturday, the thundering music, the play-by-play announcer and the roar of the cheering crowd gave every impression that there was a championship game on the line inside. While the winner of the tournament would advance to compete against teams from over 30 countries, the day’s event was not about athleticism, but about innovation, engineering, creativity and teamwork. And more impressive, none of the competitors held master degrees or Ph.D.’s. Instead, all were middle school age students from Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts competing in the First Lego League challenge.

The First Lego League Rhode Island State Championships brought nearly 40 teams together, all who made it through qualifying events over the past months. The competition was based on the theme “senior solutions,” requiring that the students develop original and innovative ideas aimed at helping improve the quality of life for the aging population.

The afternoon was spent cheering on the teams’ robots that they made out of Lego building blocks, mechanical features and a computer “brain,” where the object was to outscore opponents on points gathered on successful missions. The morning, however, was spent in closed door sessions where teams participated in teambuilding activities before presenting their inventions to a panel of judges.

Among the prototypes that were presented were a dishwater that raises its racks so elderly users don’t have to bend down; a recumbent-style bike that can be pedaled or operated by motor, allowing those with limited physical mobility the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors; and a board game with questions that stimulate each of the lobes in your brain, providing the aging population with a fun way to exercise the brain.

Members of team “Bazinga” represented Kickemuit Middle School, where coach, Stephanie Wirth, worked with the students to identify an issue of aging and develop a solution.

Wearing a hat with a small rear-view type mirror attached to it, Kickemuit student, Edmund Boyd, explained a condition known as temporal arteritis.

“It’s an inflammation of the blood vessels going to a person’s head,” he said. “You lose your peripheral vision.”

To help those afflicted with the condition, the team developed the mirror system, allowing wearers a wider side range of view.

While team “Bazinga,” as well as the two teams from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, “Wheelchair Workout” and “Robo Seniors” were not among the top finishers this year, participation in the competition is still a valuable experience.

“We had the teams build a boat and a bridge out of marshmallows and toothpicks,” said Bill Facente, a judge responsible for evaluating the teams’ core values. “We want to make sure they understand that working in a team means working as a team.”

After the judges observe each team’s interaction among its members, they talk about the challenges, the resolutions and the experience of valuing input from every member of the team.

“It’s a skill that will carry them the rest of their lives,” said Mr. Facente.

This year’s Champions Award, the tournament’s top performer in all categories was team Mindstorms Mayhem from All Saints Academy in Middletown. For their efforts, the team members earned a spot to compete in the First World Festival held in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as $5,000 scholarships to Roger Williams University for each team member.

The 2013 First Lego League Rhode Island State Championship results

1st Place Champion's Awards

Mindstorms Mayhem, All Saints Academy, Middletown

2nd Place Champion's Award

Blockheads, a neighborhood team from Cranston

Judges Award

Purple Dragon Eagles, Barrington Middle School

1st place Robot Performance

LEGO Avengers, Boy Scout Troop 333, New Bedford

2nd Place Robot Performance

Purple Dragon Eagles, Barrington Middle School

Robot Design Awards

Programming: Feinstein Einsteins, ASF Middle School, Coventry

Mechanical Design: LEGO Avengers, Boy Scout Troop 333, New Bedford

Innovation and Strategy: Rockin’ Robots, St. Peter's School, Warwick

Project Awards

Presentation: Knights of the Square Table, Boy Scout Troop 333, New Bedford

Innovative Solution: S.M.A.R.T. from St. Mary Academy Bay View, Riverside

Research: Cyborg Llamas, Martin Middle School, East Providence

Core Values Awards

 Inspiration: Team 0007, St. Philomena School, Portsmouth

Teamwork: C.A.M.E.L., Riverside Middle School, East Providence

Gracious Professionalism: Hyper Green Oreos, Lincoln Robotics, Lincoln


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