WINSTON-SALEM — Surry County middle school robotics teams showed up in numbers and represented well at a regional First Lego League competition held Dec. 5, with several teams bringing home trophies and earning a spot in the upcoming state tournament.
Teams from Pilot Mountain, Meadowview Magnet and Central middle schools attended the event, which was held here at Flat Rock Middle.
First Lego League annually involves more than 233,000 participants from 80 countries that emphasizes the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math and fosters the development of important life skills by having students solve real-world engineering challenges as a team.
Along with designing a fully automated Lego robot, teams develop projects that try to use technology to solve a relevant scientific challenge, the topic of which is released by FLL each August.
Throughout the academic year, the students work develop and implement those projects, presenting them at different sanctioned events throughout the year.
The tournaments are comprised of different components that test different aspects of the teams’ work: robot design, project presentation, and core values.
The teams also race their robots during the “Robot Run,” where the robots must perform tasks on a field.
Students work together, with their coaches and volunteers to continually tweak and develop their projects.
“We are very thankful to have the support of our local business partners not only for the monetary support to attend these competitions, but for mentoring our students for the competitions as well,” said Jeffrey Edwards, science institute coordinator for Surry County Schools.
Seventeen teams competed at a local competition held at Surry Community College in November.
In order to advance to the state championship, teams must compete in the regional qualifier and be chosen by the judges as a qualifying team.
Gentry Middle School competed at a regional event in Boone in November, qualifying to compete in the the state championship, which will be held Jan. 23-24 at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro.
Two teams from Central Middle School, “The Lightning Circuits” and “The Creationators,” competed in the regional tournament.
“The Lightning Circuits’” project addressed trash by developing a process that repurposes old computer parts by removing the monitor and replacing it with a small solar panel used for charging 12-volt batteries.
After research revealed the problems with using Styrofoam, which is difficult to recycle because it’s lightweight but also doesn’t break down well in the landfill, the “Creationators” pitched cafeterias in the school system with a proposal for switching to eco-friendly plates made of sugarcane.
While neither advanced to the state championship, “The Creationators” won the Core Value Teamwork award.
“Both teams received very positive comments from the judges in all categories,” said coach Lisha High.
Pilot Mountain Middle
The “Radical Robotic Ravens” (R Cubed) from Pilot Mountain Middle qualified for the state tournament.
“I think they are a well rounded team and that’s why they advanced,” said coach Janna Blakeney.
For their project, “R Cubed” worked on making recycling fun.
“We live in a rural community, and only the people in town have curbside recycling,” Blakeney said. “Many people in our community have to take their own trash or recycling to the dump. It is a pain to separate the recycling out.”
The students developed a computer game where new levels are unlocked for every ten bottles or cans brought in to be recycled. They also created an Instagram page highlighting fun ways to recycle.
During the regional competition, “they did a fantastic job of coming together, working hard and having fun,” Blakeney said.
Meadowview Magnet Middle sent three teams to the Winston-Salem tournament, “Blue Storm” and “The Red Barons,” which advanced to the state championship and the “Mean Green Terminators,” who were listed as an alternate.
Coach Tammy Taylor received word Thursday that the “Mean Green Terminators” would compete in January.
All three teams tackled recycling with their projects, each in a different way.
The “Blue Storm,” team, which also won the Core Values Inspiration trophy at the event, had researched the parts of electronic devices that can be reused and where to take the unwanted devices.
“The Red Barons” started a recycling program at the school dubbed “Trash to Treasure,” where students trade recycled items for “Mustang Bucks” they can spend at the school store.
The “Mean Green Terminators” are researching Nike’s Reuse a Shoe program to find ways that shoes can be recycled.
The many successes demonstrated by all the teams shows the students are indeed learning how STEM subjects apply to real life, but the life lessons espoused by FLL.
“It’s not all about the robot and how many points you get,” Blakeney said. “That is important, but the most important thing is that your team is showing core values and practicing gracious professionalism, which is the FLL term for competing like crazy with other teams and one another, but also respecting them at the same time. It’s how we all should be. That’s what’s so awesome about FLL.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.