Cutting Edge: FRES Robotics team maneuvers award
December 12, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 12, 2013) -- Team 2022, The Storm Prowlers, also known as the Fort Rucker Elementary School Robotics Team, competed in the First Lego League Competition in Birmingham Nov. 30.
And though the team did not qualify for the state championships, it came away with something more valuable -- endless possibilities.
The team earned the core values challenge trophy, and competitor Kaleb Bryan, a 12-year-old in sixth grade and chief programmer for the team, said that being in the club and attending the competition taught him that there are endless possibilities when it comes to learning about blossoming technologies.
"I like the possibilities that it holds. The things I can create -- I can do anything," he said. "I really liked going around and meeting the other people and contestants at the competition because it was an opportunity to meet new friends and talk to them about how they built their robots or what problems they had while programming. Learning from other teams and getting new attachment ideas was great. We have so many ideas now."
Teams of 10 had to compete in three separate challenges: the robot game, which consists of robot design and the obstacle course challenge; the real-world research project challenge; and the First Lego League core values challenge, which the Fort Rucker students won.
"For the robotic challenge, (the judges) look at your robot's design, attachments, build and programming, and how well it runs the obstacle course," said Vicki Gilmer, Fort Rucker Elementary School principal. "For the research-based project, they had to look at some kind of natural disaster and how they would solve a problem to go with that. And the core values challenge is where they give the kids a random problem that the children are not prepped for, and they look at how they interact with each other and how they problem solve in a difficult situation."
The theme of the competition was Nature's Fury, so each aspect of the competition revolved around learning about natural disasters.
"They had to research natural disasters, and the very first thing the students did to prepare was go to Enterprise's Emergency Fair to learn how cities prepare for different types of emergencies," said Donna Brecher, gifted education class teacher. "While there, they were inspired to learn more about pet safety during weather emergencies."
The team also visited local weather stations and pet day care centers to learn more about pet weather safety.
Gilmer said that the students chose a topic that was important to them, and since the area is not immune to severe tornados and all of the students have pets, she said it was a theme that was close to all of them for the research portion of the competition.
"Their curiosities about what happens to pets during natural disasters led them to the direction they took," she said. "The students came up with an emergency pack, which basically is a red backpack that anyone in the Family can grab that is full of things for the Family pets, like food and shot records."
For the technology aspect of the competition, the students created an app for smart phones. Though the app is not up and running because of funding, the students said that working with modern technology is the best thing about the robotics club.
"I love technology, and one of my favorite things to play with even before was Legos," said Bryan. "So this is both of them in one, and it is great."
Alyssa Griffith, a 10-year-old in the fifth grade, agreed, saying that it was really fun getting to do something different and new with technology.
"We get to work with modern day robots, and it is neat and fun. We build lots of things in the club, like merry-go-rounds and other electronics that we have to program," she said.
For the robot game, a large Lego table was set up like the aftermath of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado. There was rubble and water obstacles the student's robots had to go over, as well as a set of tasks such as rescuing animals and people, taking off Lego tree limbs safely, and delivering emergency supplies via Lego plane and Lego vehicles all within a time limit, according to team members and FRES staff.
"The robotics challenge was definitely the hardest part of the competition," said Bryan. "The first two rounds we only scored 60-something points out of 174 because we kept making mistakes and we couldn't do anything about it. It was really frustrating and we got bummed out a couple times."
The third and final round went perfectly for the team, though, with it earning maximum points. And later on in the day, the students would earn even more points when they completed the core values challenge.
The task for the team was to be divided in half and separated where they could hear each other but not see each other to solve a mystery problem. They had to try to design and build the same Lego bridge without seeing each other's progress and communicating it to each other through a divider.
"We demonstrated gracious professionalism, communication skills, patience and cooperation," said Griffith. "We got the award for how we behaved during the entire competition, so that means a lot to me and I think it does to the entire team."
The two months of intense work to prepare for the competition brought the students together and helped them understand each other's strengths and weaknesses, said Gilmer.
"I love seeing the wheels just turning in these kid's heads when they are trying to figure out just how to solve one of the problems, and that is what we are trying to do. We are trying to make our students 21st century learners and creators," she continued. "They need to be able to improve upon ideas and to be able to imagine, create, problem solve and plan, and this program takes something they are naturally interested in and takes it up a notch to advance their thought processes. Programs like this teach kids to keep looking for answers and to push ideas further."
The FRES team: Kaleb Bryan, Abby Morris, Alyxandra Lucero, Kayla Nustad, Alyssa Griffith, Ryann Butterfield, Daniel Wilson, Blake Danley, Sam Boehm and Aubree Akers, may not have come home with gold, but they did come home with the desire to achieve more, and to try new and innovative things.