Mount Airy Granite Bots bring home state Lego trophy

By Terri Flagg -

GREENSBORO — Mount Airy Middle School Principal Susan Bunch spoke in the superlative about her school’s First Lego League team performance at the recent state championships in Greensboro.

“Magnificent,” she said. “Unbelievable.”

The Granite Bots came home from the Jan. 15 tournament with a trophy for Innovative Solutions, one of 16 awarded that day.

They also scored fifth overall out of 60 teams.

“Our kids were very excited,” Bunch said. “We’ve never finished this strong in the state finals.”

In all First Lego League competitions, a challenge based on a real-world scientific topic is released nationally each August.

This year’s theme (Animal Allies) asked students to research problems involved with animal and human interactions and to design and share solutions to that problem.

Teams approach the challenge through three components: a robot game, a project, and Core Values.

For the first part of each tournament, teams are evaluated individually by judges on their project presentation, robot design and how they exhibit core values such as teamwork and problem solving.

For the second part, the students put their fully automated Lego-built robots to the test, completing timed missions on a pre-built playing field.

To participate at the state level, teams must first qualify at a sanctioned regional event.

Several local teams qualified for the state championship, held at N.C. A&T University in Greensboro.

Each team competed one of the two days scheduled for the event and represented their home region well.

They include The Robotic Phoenix from Central Middle School, The WonderBots and Squirtle Squad from Meadowview Magnet Middle School and The Loopholes, from a Mount Airy Girl Scout troop.

The K-9 Krew team from Meadowview had also been selected as an alternate, but their number was not drawn in a lottery.

“Our girls had a great day at the state championship,” said Loopholes coach Glenda Edwards. “They were 12th on Saturday for their robot missions with a score of 125. They also had good judging sessions and a callback for their Core Values (teamwork) but no trophy. I think they are excited and want to do it again next year.”

Meadowview’s Squirtle Squad also earned a callback for a Core Values trophy, coming in second out of 59 teams, coach Tammy Taylor said.

The Granite Bots tackled “Pet Therapy,” for their project.

Their award-winning innovative solution involved training therapy dogs to tap a device when a person with diabetes or someone having a seizure could not be awakened.

“The device would be bluetoothed to any device the person may own and an app on the device would alert 9-1-1 or any family member programmed into their device,” Bunch explained.

“The award recognizes a team’s solution that is exceptionally creative and with good potential to solve the problem researched.”

Team members Hannah Rudisill, Isabella McMillan, Anne Kathryn Culler, Bryson Coleman and William Mayfield were coached by sixth grade teacher Deborah Welborn. Mark Coleman, who works at Insteel Industries, served as a mentor coach for the team.

“This team had the heart, determination, fun spirit and knowledge to bring all components together to make a championship team,” Welborn said. “We are so very proud of their accomplishments.”

The Granite Bots put in many hours of work perfecting their presentation with research, conducting interviews as well as improving their time and proficiency on Robot Runs, Bunch said.

“Robotics amazingly involves solving real world challenges through designing, programming, collaborating and finding creative, innovative solutions,” she said. “This has been a wonderful learning experience for our students, and we are extremely proud of their hard work and perseverance.”

By Terri Flagg

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.