David Broyles Staff Reporter
December 19, 2013
Millenium Charter Academy’s First Lego League robotics teams have returned from regional competition with awards in the “innovative solutions” and “core values” categories.
Team “Veracissimus” captured first place in the innovative solutions category and team “Opturum” finished second in the core values category.
According to MCA Director of Development and Information Technology Lu Ann Browne, the academy’s teams were among a field of 24 in each category in the middle school division held at Walkertown High School in Winston-Salem.
The age range in the regionals includes students age 9-14 years old. She said another element of the competition this year was the use of object-oriented programming which allows participants to more quickly copy and link commands for the robots.
Students explained how they calculated how much time they had to prepare for the tournament and, knowing their presentation skills were stronger than their robot programming for the tabletop courses, they decided to put most of their attention on improving their presentation.
The teams agreed the tournament was the most stressful part of the competition with Coach Brittany Branch required to remain out of competition areas and offer as few suggestions and guideance as possible. The children said the robotics competition began on less than a high note as one of their Robot’s battery ran out on its first run.
Fortunately, the robot stopped in a 20-point zone on the course and the team at least walked away with 28 points from the run. Browne said last year the team finished in first place in the innovative solution design category.
In the league, each challenge has three parts, the Robot Game, the Project and the League Core Values. Teams with one adult coach participate by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field, developing a solution to a problem they have identified. All of these activities are guided by the league’s core values principals.
Members of team Veracissimus said the core values part of the competition included moving a hula hoop without breaking a chain of participants holding hands. They said a high standard of poise was expected of participants with judges closely watching team reactions and interactions.
The teams also arrived for the compeititon to find the robot missions had been changed or edited and debris was allowed on the runway for the missions. Some procedures from last year’s tournament in Charlotte were also new.
Robotics Coach Brittany Branch said her groups were challenged to improve an existent solution for a problem or come up with an entirely new solution to help people regroup, prepare and stay safe in the face of natural disasters. The theme of the competition this year was Nature’s Fury and last year’s theme was Senior Solutions.
Team Opturum decided it had to act after learning that 64 percent of flood related deaths happen in automobiles. The team’s project was to improve an emergency glass breaking tool to escape from a car. They wanted their improved tool to cut seatbealts, have a flashlight, and early plans called for it to include rope and a inflatable life vest.
Veracissimus focused on hurricanes and producing a solution to help survivors get clean drinking water. This team created a five-gallon bucket water purifier system and survival kit. The kit included different ways to filter water with a screen, a cloth and across charcoal, and water purification tablets packed in the bucket. The kit also includes 15-feet of para cord to help secure the filtration screen and the bucket handles which can be cut off to use as emergency ties.
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