Youths compete in Lego robotics competition at Museum of Aviation

wcrenshaw@macon.comJanuary 11, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Legos are toys, but might also be building blocks for a child’s future.

That’s the premise behind the annual FIRST Lego League Super Regional Qualifier, a Lego robotics competition, held Saturday at the Museum of Aviation. About 300 students and 30 teams participated.

Most were from schools around Middle Georgia, but teams also came from elsewhere in the state.

Susie B. Atkinson Elementary in Griffin sent one girls team and one boys team. The girls team placed fifth in the first round. One member of the team, 10-year-old Tavaria Daniels, said she hopes to become an engineer.

“I like building the robot and the designing,” she said. “There’s a lot of math and engineering.”

The teams build robots from identical Lego Mindstorm kits. They are given 13 specific missions to perform, although they aren’t likely to do them all in the time allowed. They have to decide which ones to perform to achieve the highest point total.

When they are done, a judge interviews them to test their knowledge and make sure they did all the work themselves. They have to answer questions about how and why they did things in certain ways.

The robots are not operated by remote control. Instead the competitors program the robots to perform each task, so once it is released all they can do is watch and hope the robot does what it is supposed to do.

Three rounds are held and the missions are the same each time. Each team’s best round is used to determine the outcome.

Carole Myers, a math teacher at First Presbyterian Day School in Macon, works with the school’s robotics program. She said the competition encompasses basically everything the school teaches students in math and science.

“To me, educationally it fits all the different blocks,” she said. “And they love it, that’s the thing about it. They will come and spend hours practicing.”

The number of teams is down from 38 last year, but that actually is reflective of the growing popularity of the event, said Wesley Fondal, executive director of STARBASE Robins.

He was expecting fewer teams this year because the state added more super regional qualifiers.

“It’s really better for us,” he said.

Teams qualify for the super regional by winning a regional event.

Each year has a different theme, and this year the theme was natural disaster. The missions were set up simulate what robots might do to aid in a disaster.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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