The idea of putting together a robot with many working facets and components may sound stressful to some, but for the kids on the robotics team at Christ Lutheran School, it’s an exciting endeavor to explore.
This team is a part of the First Lego League, or FLL, whose mission is to build a fully-functioning robot out of Legos. After about a month of constructing, their final product was a robot with a cube shape, including a port in front for different attachments enabling it to do various tasks.
Not only must the team build a robot, but they also must complete a research project regarding a particular theme. This year, the theme was to identify a problem with long-term space exploration and to develop a unique solution with either a prototype or a presentation.
The Christ Lutheran team explored the dilemma of radiation in space and resolved that problem by using a dosimeter and creating a wrist monitor for astronauts to wear to detect radiation.
“Robotics allows young students to develop a passion for several areas of study like problem solving, using areas of STEM, researching, building an authentic product and presenting final results to people, which will help these kids for years to come,” said Coach Lotus Kaplan. “When they go out into the workforce, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Preparation began in October. The team had to finish both the model robot and the research project in order to qualify for competition, which began in the second half of November. Then, if those qualifying teams win an award, they proceed to the FLL Arizona State Tournament at ASU.
Christ Lutheran made it to the state tournament and competed against 96 other teams. Which was an immense accomplishment in and of itself, since there is only one fourth grader and two middle school students on the team.
“I really had no expectations so I really just enjoyed watching them perform and take ownership in all the areas in which they worked in,” said Kaplan. “I was just taking it all in. They amaze me.”
Although the team didn’t place for its robot, it really shined with its approach to the competition. At the end of the competition, Spencer and Carter Wright and Amanda Kelly earned the Gracious Professionalism Award – also known as the Core Value Award – which reflects the team’s ability to work well with others and showcase a positive attitude.
The team not only handed out good luck pieces to other teams, made banners and cheered everybody else on, but they also practiced these core values throughout the building process.
“I do believe that because our kids are coming from a small Christian school that Gracious Professionalism is the exact award they should have gotten because kindness and working with one another is something we practice at CLS every day,” Kaplan said.
According to Spencer and Carter, the atmosphere at the state competition and the ability to talk to students their own age with the same passion of robotics was by far their favorite part.
“It was exciting and everybody was happy. Everybody talked to each other and it was really fun in general,” said Carter, a fourth grader.
Spencer said that robotics can be really stressful, but if you are interested in STEM and want to continue to develop those skills in an encouraging and friendly environment, then robotics might be exactly what you need. “If you like Legos, programming and learning about research stuff, and if you combine it all together, that’s what you do in robotics,” said Spencer, who is in the seventh grade. “It’s just a really great thing all around.”