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STEM Tech Team Wins Lego Competition at Regional Qualifier








This article written by Michael Morrison. Edited and submitted by Audrey Grayson.

Currently, there are seven members of the Astrobonauts team- Isamarie, Jameer, Asher, Angie, Hayden, Alex, and Quinci. This is a first-time team with little experience building a Lego robot or programming (Asher had some previous experience).  Some of the other teams have many years of experience.  Our team had to learn how to put Legos together to make a strong and innovative robot that could perform many tasks accurately.  Just learning what pieces were available was a challenge. The robot programming is object based – you drag blocks into a window to perform tasks, but can be very advanced. Our programmers had to learn about subroutines (MyBlocks), sensors, gears, loops and if/then routines (called switches in Lego). We did most of our work on Saturdays with whom ever could make it to the Turnquest Center, but started adding Tuesday and Thursday nights as the competition grew near and our enthusiasm increased.

“We were very surprised when our hard work paid off and very happy that our new and inexperienced team won the competition at the Regional Qualifier in Maitland, Florida,” says Mr. Michael Morrison.

The theme for this year’s world-wide competition was “Animal Allies.”  The team had many tasks to perform for the competition:

  1. CoreValues – The team had to prepare a poster for the competition telling how they used the Lego League Core Values during the competition and in their daily lives. They had to present their poster to the judges at the competition and answer questions from the judges. Examples of using Core Values in their daily lives included doing fund drives with Junior National Honors or carrying books for a friend with a broken leg.
  2. The Project – Each team had to come up with an original project, research the project, conduct expert interviews and develop a poster board.  The project they proposed was a phone/pad app called “Huntermal” that helps you get information on a creature when you first encounter it. It provides information on what it is, whether it is protected or endangered or even a new species. The project had to be presented to several audiences outside the competition. The kids came up with a skit that had them find a new creature (a wildly embellished plush toy seal) and wonder what it was. The skit was very successful and was presented to other coaches, Lego teams and a software company owner. At the competition, the kids are on their own, no coaches allowed at the interview!

    3. The Robot – The team had to design, build, program and test the Lego robot.  They also had to write a “Robot Executive Design Summary” for the judges. At the competition, they had to knowledgeably answer questions about the software and design. During the judging the judges are trying to determine if the kids did the work themselves and understand it (in other words the work wasn’t done by an adult).The Astrobonauts mostly split up along hardware and software with Isa, Jameer, Angie, Alex and Quinci doing most of the robot design and building.  Asher and Hayden did most of the programming, although we tried to make sure ALL the kids had some programming exposure.

    4. The Robot Competition – This is the part that gets the most publicity, but is not necessarily worth the most points at the competition. The robot had to run a bunch of “missions” on a 4-ft by 8-ft board with lots of obstacles and challenges. The robot is completely on its own, running according to the programming and hardware.  No remote control is allowed.  The team members worked in groups of two to share the responsibility of each mission with one being the handler and the other reading the checklist.

First Lego League Core Values:

  • We are a team.
  • We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
  • We know our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers; we learn together.
  • We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
  • What we discover is more important than what we win.
  • We share our experiences with others.
  • We display Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition® in everything we do.
  • We have FUN!

The STEM Tech Neighborhood Academy at the Turnquest Center is a technical-based program designed to be the tool of choice of some dedicated NASA engineers, some retired and some still working for the NASA.  Mr. Eric Green, Mr. Welmon Speed, Mrs. Bernadette Brightman-Merrell and Mr. Darrell Thomas are those committed STEM Tech engineers.  With the help of so many concerned citizens who volunteer at Turnquest, STEM Tech’s mission is to ensure that science and technology serve the needs of disadvantaged communities with emphasis on youth at risk.  If this article is any indication, their plan for these kids is working.

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