Young robot designers from the Cache Valley area gathered in Logan recently to test their technical skills — as well as their leadership skills.
To win at the FIRST LEGO League Cache Valley Qualifier, teams needed to display not just an understanding of robotics and programming, but teamwork, professionalism, and communication skills as well.
Ten teams of children ages 9-14 went head to head in three areas of competition, Robot Design, Innovation Project and Core Values.
For the Robot Design aspect of the competition, teams built and programmed their own LEGO Mindstorms robots, which were tested by this year’s City Shaper challenge.
“For the CITY SHAPER Challenge, FIRST collaborated with experts in the fields of architecture, civil engineering, infrastructure, sustainability, and urban planning,” stated a press release distributed by the tournament. “These experts … helped to create a theme and challenge missions that reflect what it takes to design and construct practical, sustainable, and beautiful buildings and spaces catering to the diverse needs of their users.”
For the Innovation Project, each team designed a device that they believed could help make the world a better place. Completed projects ranged from a device to clean up water pollution to a solar-powered fan. The kids then presented their ideas to judges, with absolutely no coaching allowed.
“The coaches are not even allowed inside this room, so it’s just the students,” said Job Cyril, the tournament director. “It’s a nice thing just to watch these kids express themselves without having anybody to just come in between … I love the growth that these guys have year after year.”
The Core Values section of the competition assessed the teams’ sportsmanship and cooperation through a trivial challenge. Each team was given an empty container, a bowl of cotton balls, and straws, with the simple instruction to move the cotton balls into the empty container.
The children were then asked a series of questions by the judges, mostly to ascertain the team’s dynamic and independence.
“They’re so young, and they’re building these bots, basically,” said Rachel Wall, a volunteer at the past five competitions. “The first rule of FIRST LEGO is minimal direction and minimal help from the coaches … That’s one of the things I judge for in the core values.”
According to Paul Nelson, the MC at the tournament and a former coach, this year the scoring was changed to put even more emphasis on the Innovation Project and Core Values areas of the competition.
Because of this, teams that didn’t score well in the Robot Design portion of the challenge still had the chance to advance to the state competition if they scored well in the other two categories.
“They’re really trying to emphasize that balance that it’s not technical at all cost; you’ve got to have good people skills, you’ve got to be able to communicate and work as a team.” Nelson said. “And those are equally as important, if not more important, than the technical side.”
The results of the FIRST LEGO League Cache Valley Qualifier, which was held Saturday, Jan. 4, at the Edith Bowen Laboratory School, were as follows:
The Tie-Dye Bots of Perry, coached by Matt Firth, Korina Lee, and Travis Moesse, received the Core Values Award, for their exceptional teamwork and professionalism.
The Robot Design Award was awarded to the Space Sloths of Thatcher, coached by Jon Oram and Brent Petersen, who excelled in their approach to mechanical design.
The Robot Performance Award was given to the Apollo Bots of North Logan, coached by David Huish and Andrew Sorensen, who scored the most points during the robot games.
The Project award, given to the team with the highest-scoring project, was awarded to The Masterbuilders of Logan, coached by McKay Colleni and Detrick Hendrickson.
Finally, the Robot Eagles of North Logan, coached by Ralph Trumble and Dena Larsen, received the Champions Award for the overall highest scores in all three categories.
The three teams that qualified to represent Cache Valley at the state level were, in no particular order, the Master Builders, the Robot Eagles, and the Apollo Bots.