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WL robotics teams build on their wins


Teams from Athey, Rosemont and Three Rivers shine at state Lego robotics competition

Six Lego robotics teams from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District earned the right to compete in the Intel Oregon FIRST Lego League Championship Tournament. Five of those teams brought trophies home from that tournament.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Three members of ACES confer with a judge during the Lego Robotics tournament Jan. 18. From left, Justin LeBlanc, Michael Talbert and Emily Ivany.Held Jan. 18 and 19 in Hillsboro, the event drew teams from across the state. Each team earned its spot at the tournament by winning regional tournaments held earlier. More than 3,300 students on 472 teams from throughout the state competed in December at regional qualifying tournaments. The top 25 percent of those teams, a total of 119, competed Jan. 18 and 19 in Hillsboro.

Each team comprises four to 10 students, ages 9 to 14. Teams were given about three months to design, build and program a small robot and to complete a required scientific research project. Each team purchased Lego robotics kits to build a customized robot to compete against other robots in tournament challenges.

This year, the competition theme was “Nature’s Fury.” Each team chose a type of natural disaster, such as tornadoes or wildfires, researched it and developed a strategy to prepare for or to respond to that disaster. The competition consists of three parts: robot challenges, presentations of their research and opportunities to showcase teamwork skills.

WL-WV teams placed highly in each of those three areas.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Lego Megos team from Rosemont Ridge Middle School won first place for their robot's mechanical design.Rosemont Ridge sent two teams to the tournament, and both earned trophies. Lego Megos won first place for robot/mechanical design and GIRLS took second place for core values/teamwork.

“We are all immensely proud of the GIRLS,” said coach Jen Owens. “This was the first time that Rosemont has had an all-female Lego robotics team, and they did amazing. Our team name is an acronym for Gracious Intelligent Resourceful Lady Scientists, and throughout the season the GIRLS really embodied those traits.”by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Members of the GIRLS team from Rosemont Ridge Middle School won second place for their teamwork, a core value of FIRST.

The ACES — it’s an acronym for Athey Creek Engineering Superstars — won the second-place award for their project presentation.

"The ACES came up with a product idea that they named ‘foggle goggles,’ to help firefighters,” coach Sally LeBlanc said. “The team had a great day and we are so proud of them.”

A team from Three Rivers Charter School, Melting Plastic, took second in the robot design/programming category.

“The Three Rivers Charter School teams had a fun day competing,” said Melting Plastic coach Kerry Sovde. “It was a great way to end the kids’ season, which had begun back in September.”

Team members researched wildfires and created a concept for a wildfire evacuation jacket. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Melting Plastic, a team from Three Rivers Charter School, earned second place for their programming during the Lego robotics state competition held Jan. 18. Back row, coach Kerry Sovde and mentor Songtao Xia. Middle row, from left, Ethan Sovde, Evan Khoo, Ethan Walhood and Zach Gilburne. In front, Victor Xia and Eric Xia (kneeling).

The team’s second-place trophy recognized the team for using outstanding programming principles, including clean, concise and reusable code that allows their robot to perform challenge missions, Sovde said.

Another team from Three Rivers, Clockwork, also attended the competition, with a project centered on water filtration. Clockwork did not walk away with a trophy, but team members did have a great experience.

“Both teams enjoyed this year’s Nature’s Fury challenge and are already looking forward to next year’s challenge,” Sovde said.

Wilsonville’s Squeaky Wheelz team, coached by Heather Castillo, earned second place for its project about earthquakes and the innovative solution the team designed.

“Starting in August, when the new challenge is released, we will start the fun all over again with a new research project and new robot missions,” Castillo said. “We are going to be using a new robot ‘brain’ next year, so we will start doing some training on that over the summer.”

“Coaching was a big commitment, but it was worth it to give these girls the opportunity to gain experience and build confidence in their ability as engineers,” Owens, the GIRLS coach, said. “We hope to keep the team together next year so that the GIRLS can pick up where we left off this year and keep building momentum and excitement about engineering.”

Although the competition season is over for Lego robotics, it is just beginning for high school robotics teams. The West Linn-Wilsonville School District has one team, known as Error Code Xero, that is currently designing and building a robot. The build season continues until Feb. 3, with competition beginning shortly after. Last year, Error Code Xero advanced to international competition.

Learn more about FIRST robotics online at usfirst.org.

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
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