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Robotics meet is energizing experience

Gale Rose
The Skyline LightningBotz surround a game table at the FIRST Lego League robotics tournament in Salina. The LightningBotz placed eleventh out of 23 teams at the tournament.

A missing robot, a dive off a ramp and a trophy for software were highlights for the Skyline Lego League robotics teams at a meet in Salina. Sponsor Mike Nelson and members of the LightningBotz gave a review and demonstration to the USD 438 Board of Education during their meeting Feb. 10.

Both Skyline Lego League teams, grades 5-8, the LightningBotz (younger group) and the Thunderbots (seventh and eighth graders), took part in the competition sponsored by FIRST Lego League. The Thunderbots took home a first place award for a robot design program.

“We won the software trophy this year,” Nelson said. “We have won four trophies out of five years competitions.”

The Thunderbots took sixth overall and the LightningBotz took eleventh out of 23 teams. Robot design judging is in the morning and head to head robot competition is in the afternoon. The afternoon sessions tend to get loud and noisy as team members and spectators cheer on the teams.

“It’s a fun, full day and a high energy competition,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of yelling, cheering and screaming.”

Of the 23 teams at the tournament, half are school based while the others are 4-H clubs, church groups and even a Girl Scout team.

Teams organized in August and the tournament is the culmination of several months work.

Teams practice at least once a week for two and a half hours at each session. Each team is allowed only 10 members. Students not chosen are alternates if someone is not able to compete. Nelson said this activity is one of his favorite.

“I love teaching these units and working with the kids after school,” Nelson said.

The LightningBotz had some memorable moments in this tournament including forgetting to take the robot that was plugged in and charging. A parent and Principal Herb McPherson came to the rescue with the robot delivered just 10 minutes before the judging began.

At the competition, each team has programmed their robot to do specific tasks on a table. Team members are only allowed to start the robot and cannot remotely operate it in any way.

Each team has three, two and a half minute rounds to accomplish as many tasks as possible. Each task is assigned a specific number of points and there are 13 possible tasks. Teams are also judged on how they prioritize the tasks they choose.

Teams made adjustments between and during a round but they had to be quick because the clock did not stop. The ThunderBots actually added a mission during a round and that was impressive, Nelson said.

Coaches were not allowed to even touch the robot or adjust programming during the entire competition.

Each team had a private interview with the judges with no coaches or spectators. The judges focused on respect, inclusion, efficiency and effectiveness of the team work.

Thunderbots: Brayden Berens, Griffin Wallace, Justus Novotny, Camryn Buck, Cory Hampton, Brylie Ackerman, Elizabeth Bair, Jude Nelson, Nolan Kenworthy and Adler Nelson.

LightningBotz: Cheyanne Snider, Raven Cason, Taylor Binford, Karlee Harbour, Sarah Reyes, Carter Hammond, Clayton Freeman, Wiley Atteberry, Jorden House and Isaac House.