Science — CSLA and MVMSs Average Joes place second and third, respectively, at district tournament

With all the success the Newberg High School has enjoyed in recent years, the community is already on the map when it comes to robotics in the state of Oregon. by: SETH GORDON - Tinkering around -- The C.S. Lewis Academy middle school robotics team, 'Unicorns of Fury,' makes adjustments to their robot during class before winter break. The team placed second at the district tournament to qualify for the FIRST LEGO League state championship Jan. 18-19 at Liberty High School.

But area middle school teams are well on their way to making a name for themselves, too, after C.S. Lewis Academy and Mountain View Middle School both qualified teams for the upcoming FIRST LEGO League (FLL) state championship tournament.

CSLA’s “Unicorns of Fury” squad placed second overall at the district tournament Dec. 14 at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, followed closely by Mountain View’s “Average Joes” in third.

Considering C.S. Lewis’s team grew from four to nine players this year and that Mountain View has fielded two teams in both years of the program existence, it appears the middle school robotics scene in Newberg is thriving.

CSLA has now qualified for the state tournament three consecutive times since teacher and advisor Pam Chambers first began teaching robotics as an elective and advising the team in the 2010-11 school year. Last year the “Watch Bots” finished first in the state in the project presentation category of the competition.

“Every year I’ve done it I’ve had it as a class,” Chambers said. “That’s been really nice because the kids get a grade, they’re committed and then we do a lot of after-school things, too. Some of them put in a lot of time.”

Lydia Chambers, an eighth grader who worked primarily on programming the team’s robot for the game competition, is one of three returning members of last year’s team and said it was an adjustment going from four players to nine.

“It’s nice to have the responsibilities split up, but it’s also harder to decide to do things than with four people,” she said. “Ultimately, I think it’s better.”

The Unicorns of Fury have not seen all of their scoring rubrics from the competition, but believe they did well once again with their project presentation, which centered on earthquake preparedness. Sixth grader Braylon Russ came up with the idea to reinforce tables, under which schoolchildren are drilled to seek shelter, by installing a cross bar and an extra pair legs that can be unlocked in emergency situations.

C.S. Lewis did finish second in the robot competition at the district, trailing only Average Joes, who also placed first in robot design en route to the program’s first-ever bid to the state tournament.

“They’re really confident in their robot,” MVMS teacher and advisor Drew Gallagher said. “It did work well and very consistently put up high numbers. I think what we’re going to concentrate on when we come back from winter break is tweaking the project and working on collaboration and teamwork.”

Gallagher’s colleague Toni Hanson coach Mountain View’s “Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies” team, which performed well, but did not advance.

Gallagher added that having experienced team members back from last year was beneficial and should also help when the state tournament comes around Jan. 18 and 19 at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

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