SIDNEY — In a mathematics classroom at Christian Academy Schools (CA) recently, eight junior high students bubbling over with pride and enthusiasm fairly danced around the room in excitement, eager to talk about their accomplishments.
They comprise the robotics team and in December, they competed for the first time in a First Lego League (FLL) contest at Wright State University, where they took top honors for innovative solutions and compiled a perfect score in the core values section of the contest. They were up against 23 other teams.
“Each year FFL releases a challenge, which is based on a real-world scientific topic,” according to the organization’s website. “Each challenge has three parts: the robot game, the project, and the core values. Teams … participate in the challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field, developing a solution to a problem they have identified, all guided by the FLL core values.”
The CA team includes Nick Wilson, Alyssa Pepiot, Sophie Young, Abby Smitley, Cassidy Rhoades, Addison Morris, Conrad Echemann and Hannah Heaberlin. They are coached by math teacher Tracy Brewer.
The challenge for the 2015 competition was Trash Trek, the collection, sorting, smart production and reuse of trash. At CA, students used Legos to build several small robots that hauled and sorted blocks representative of various types of trash, but it was their community project that really caught the eye of the judges.
“You are really promoting FLL values out into the community,” wrote one evaluator. That’s because solving a robotics problem has led team members to establish a whole new activity at the school.
“There’s too much waste and the cost of disposing it, and there are hungry people in the community,” said Smitley. “Our solution was to make compost to dispose of waste and create a community garden behind the school.”
The kids plan to raise vegetables for use in the school cafeteria and flowers to sell at school fundraisers. They also hope to erect a greenhouse.
Several Robotics Team members started a garden club. Mary Toal is its lead volunteer and Shelby County Master Gardeners have served as consultants to the students.
The garden is 40-feet by 60-feet and Garden Club members have been feeding it compost from the school kitchen and taking the soil temperature every day.
“They got things rolling for the school, not just for the competition,” Brewer said.
The Robotics Team meets during a school period on Friday afternoons for 90 minutes. Students had to apply for membership and now that they are no longer preparing for competition, they will concentrate on programming robots and staging robot wars.
“We have last year’s robot,” said Pepiot. “We’re going to see which one is better, the older one or the newer one.”
Brewer said that the club provides opportunities to achieve real-world skills and qualities, including professionalism, teamwork and encouraging others in addition to scientific problem-solving abilities.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen adults work together like these guys do,” she said. “The encouragement they give to each other — one will have a little idea and the whole group just blossoms.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.