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Published: Sunday, 12/2/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Young engineers test robotic skills in Lego League Challenge

250 students from 24 schools compete in research, development, teamwork

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Edgewater Elementary students Layne Murphy and Kevin Reynolds watch their robot perform. Edgewater Elementary students Layne Murphy and Kevin Reynolds watch their robot perform.
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It was a blood-curdling scream, usually reserved for sporting events such as the Super Bowl.

“Go Steve! Go!” pleaded Brianna Shebek, a sixth grader at Chase STEM Academy in Toledo. “C’mon, you can do it.”

But this Steve wasn’t a quarterback. He wasn’t even human.

PHOTO GALLERY: Lego League Challenge

The student was cheering for a small robot that she and her classmates made of Lego blocks. The students and Steve were competing in the 2012 First Lego League Challenge, a regional competition at Toledo Technology Academy on Saturday.

About 250 students, representing 24 teams, competed.

The team Mutant Minds from Sylvan Elementary in Sylvania earned the event’s Champion’s Award. The top honor is given to the team that overall does best in three categories — how well its robot performs, the project chosen, and how well the team carries out its tasks. Other award categories included research, mechanical design, and strategy and innovation.

Maumee St. Joseph Elementary School captain Taylor Gallardo, right, and her team watch their robot maneuver through obstacles during the competition. Maumee St. Joseph Elementary School captain Taylor Gallardo, right, and her team watch their robot maneuver through obstacles during the competition.
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David Volk, acting director at Toledo Technology Academy, said the event is important because it is an opportunity for hands-on learning and demonstration of knowledge. It also teaches teamwork.

“Anytime you can get kids excited about learning and practicing what they learn is a great thing,” Mr. Volk said.

Since early fall, teams comprising 3 to 10 students have done research and used their engineering and math skills to design and program robots using Lego Mindstorms kits.

This year’s challenge focused on the issue of aging and how it may affect ability to maintain lifestyle. Students researched issues such as mobility, physical fitness, and maintaining relationships.

The teams then developed robots to address those issues.

First-time competitors from Edgewater Elementary received the Gracious Professionalism Award. It is to given to the team that best demonstrates extraordinary enthusiasm and spirit, inspiration, exceptional partnership, the utmost respect to its own teammates, and support and encouragement of other teams.

Melanie Gromes, right, a fourth grader at Sylvan Elementary, cheers on her  team's robot. Melanie Gromes, right, a fourth grader at Sylvan Elementary, cheers on her team's robot.
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To prepare for their project, the Edgewater students spent several weeks last spring surveying senior citizens in their community. The most commonly mentioned concern was the challenge of shoveling snow in the winter.

Students built a miniature robot that could help with the job.

But the students didn’t stop there. They also created a community program to help seniors this winter.

“We will go to their homes on snow days and shovel their driveways and sidewalks so they don’t fall,” explained 10-year-old Taylor Vay. “We just want to help out, and a lot of seniors don’t have any kids.”

The team from Chase STEM Academy didn’t take home any awards, but the academy’s students still felt like winners.

Many of the students had family and friends in the audience cheering on their efforts.

“Even though you lose, you are still a winner because you still have people cheering for you, and that’s winning,” said 12-year-old Brianna, who was quite vocal as she cheered on her team’s Steve the robot.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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