Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) robotics teams from the New River Valley recently won awards in FIRST Lego League competition that enabled them to move to another round of championship competition last weekend.
The FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) is a nationwide robotics program for students in grades 7 through 12 who develop science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills and practice engineering principles, while working as a team. This season’s theme was Ultimate Goal.
The Civil Bots, a team of six students, won the Robot Design award for building and programming a robot that consistently completed missions to earn sixth place in Division One and eleventh place overall. That award allowed the Civil Bots to advance to the remote VA-DC
FIRST Lego league (FLL) championship level this past weekend.
The Civil Bots used Legos to create a model of a healthy gym with hovering platforms to allow a small space to be used in different ways and be accessible to all ages and abilities.
Also advancing were the Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies, a team of six students coached by Jeremy Adams who competed in the upper FLL Division Two.
Their robot scored 330 points on the mission table, earning a second-place performance award. Their Innovation Project was developing a virtual reality game for kids to play tag or capture the flag inside and be active when outside or group playtime is not permitted.
A third team, the Red Beard Pandas, advanced to the FLL Chesapeake District championship held this past weekend. They won the highest award in FTC competition: the Inspire Award, presented to a team that inspires other teams with their professionalism.
Engaging in the hybrid competition, the Pandas built an 18×18-square-inch robot with metal screws 3D printed parts, rubber wheels, wires, servos, gears, motors and more. The Pandas met with another FTC team in a warehouse in Fairlawn on a large twelve-foot square competition field. To maintain the 10-person COVID mandate, referees were virtually observing and scoring the matches by video cameras. The Pandas designed science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Treasure Chests with science, math, art and engineering activities for kids ages 4 to 14 to check out and have fun with at home.
After the first hybrid competition with teams from Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, the Red Beard Pandas won a first-place design award and a third-place motivate award.
A fourth team in the competition, four Panda Cubs, won the Core Values award. Their robot scored 260 points which garnered them a third-place in Division One and fifth place overall.
Because COVID caused a shortage of equipment, the Panda Cubs designed an exercise toy that could be made by anyone using recycled materials around the house and could even be adjusted to change levels to make the exercise more stimulating.
FIRST Lego League Challenge teams are for students ages 9-16. They were asked to create a Lego EV3 robot to activate sixteen different replay missions in two and one-half minutes on a table-top field.
The VA-DC regional FIRST Lego League organization offered remote competitions. FLL teams videotaped their robot completing five matches and uploaded the video for virtual judges to score.
A time was provided to FLL teams to gather in front of a camera to present their project and teamwork to online judges who asked questions of the students.
Panda Cubs Robotics Team Coach Debbie Clark said of the season and the competition, “This year, robotics was the only extracurricular activity where kids could meet safely together. They lost so much to COVID. Winning the Core Values confirmed [the Panda Cubs’] extraordinary enthusiasm for STEM and their spirit for learning and showed respect for the rules requiring them to be safe and healthy. The kids had so much fun.”
Civil Bots team coach Shelly Stoddard said, “Our second year team took on the challenges of COVID with grace and a positive attitude. They worked very hard and learned some great new skills in coding, how to be a presenter, and the engineering process. Our team members had fun, gained confidence, and saw problem solving in action as we navigated in person meetings with COVID safety requirements.”
Coach Ethan Bass, the coach of the Red Beard Pandas, said about the season and the competition, “We continued to meet during a global pandemic. We built an awesome robot. The FTC students performed really well, and you can tell that through their actions that they really care about robotics and teamwork. It feels good to be an ambassador for Southwest Virginia at the championships this weekend.”