- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

FORT PAYNE, Ala. (AP) - First Lego League is a unique competition. It’s a multi-faceted experience that gives students fifth through sixth-grade the chance to put to practice what they learn in the classroom. They brainstorm, problem solve and come up with solutions that can have a significant impact on their communities.

By the way, they get to create an autonomous robot, too.

The Robotics team from Fort Payne Middle School recently competed in the First Lego League Regional Competition in Athens on Jan. 21. Three teams competed, and two advanced on to the state level, which will be March 4.

A large part of the competition is the robot design portion. The teams are broken up into groups of at least 10 and Robotics sponsor and Fort Payne Middle School Teacher Jamie McClung helps the team come up with the design, while sticking to a set of strict regulations for the contest.

“Two teams of ours will go on to compete at state,” McClung said. “One team got fifth place in robot, one placed eighth and the other 11th. That was the robot game, though. We don’t really know scores, but they all scored in the exceptional and excellent range.”

In addition to those high marks, McClung’s wife, Regan, also took home a “Coach’s Award” for her help with the projects - the man said students filled out essays on why they felt his wife should receive the distinction.

McClung’s team started researching and designing their robots in early August, and each of the three teams developed their own finished product.

“But, we all kind of worked side-by-side,” McClung said. “One of the things in this program is cooperation. They get to looking at each other’s ideas, and then they can build on each others. If somebody had a good idea, then somebody would build on that.

“Each one was unique, but being side-by-side, they were able to feed off of each other.”

But, in addition to the robot portion of the contest, each team also worked to develop a community project.

Students are required to identify issues in their communities and come up with applicable solutions and work to solve those problems. These projects follow specific themes, as well.

The theme for this year was “Animal Allies,” and participants worked to first address problems involving animals and how they interact with humans, and then they created an innovative solution to that problem.

Of the three teams, one partnered with Tigers for Tomorrow, a wildlife preserve in DeKalb County, another team partnered with the Little River Canyon Center and the third partnered with the Chattanooga Zoo.

McClung said the Tigers for Tomorrow team worked to develop a game to keep the enclosed animals active.

“For Tigers for Tomorrow, the students built this sensor, and whenever a bear triggers the sensor, it will activate a rain shower, and (the bear) will be able to activate in in their own cage,” McClung said.

McClung said the team with Chattanooga worked on developing a small, glass enclosure for visitors at the zoo.

“There was that issue at the (Cincinnati) zoo with Harambe the gorilla, and the boy fell in,” McClung said. “So, they came up with this little one-way mirror, and it was designed so that there wasn’t anybody put in a risky position like that.”

McClung said the group at the LRCC worked to address an issue of litter in the National Preserve. The students combined existing QR code technology to create an interactive, instructional warning - more or less - sign for patrons.

“(Park Superintendent) Steve Black said they have signs and stuff up there, but nobody really reads them,” McClung said. “The canyon is booming, and they love having people up there, but they don’t have an understanding of how they can hurt the habitat for the animals.”

So, McClung’s students created videos of themselves displaying proper techniques about how to best enjoy all the canyon has to offer, and also make sure the animals are safe, too.

“They made these videos and put a QR code on these flags,” McClung said. “It’s much more interactive for (visitors) to pull up a quick, little video - more so than stopping or reading a sign.”

The teams will load up their gear and travel up the road to the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center on March 4 for the state First Lego League Competition. They’ll take the time between to tweak projects and make corrections in hopes of getting a better score.

It’s the second year his team has competed at the state level, and McClung said his team improves at each level of the contest. He has high hopes for that state competition.

But, at the least, the experience of it all is a great takeaway for his students.

“We were better this year than last year, and they are progressively getting better each time,” McClung said. “Every time we go to a competition, it’s an experience. We’re going to catch up and be more competitive (March 4). We’re already in the thick it.”

___

Information from: Fort Payne Times-Journal, https://www.times-journal.com


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide