Fifth grade students from all three elementary schools competed in the FIRST Lego League Qualifier on January 14. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology. FIRST Lego League was created in 1989 and children from 88 countries compete in 1,464 events all over the world.
The team from LaBelle named themselves Atomic Tech and were coached by Nan Akin. The team had the help of two parent coaches too. Isaac Peck and Ramon Rodriguez were instrumental in helping organize and teach the students programming.
A grant for start up costs was provided by Suncoast Federal Credit Union, which allowed LMS to build and finance the robot challenge table.
The qualifier consisted of several different events. Students completed a research project. Atomic Tech researched barn owls. This year, the theme for FIRST Lego League had to be centered on an animal/people problem. Margaret England helped the group identify a problem with barn owls. Mr. Newhouse, Director of Hendry County’s Emergency Operation Center lead the students on a tour of the EOC building. Mr. Newhouse has a problem with barn owls roosting above the water and ice machines. They leave pellets and other messes while they roost. The students researched various solutions to this animal/people problem. The team published a brochure outlining their research and received high scores on their research.
Students also need to show judges that they understand and can implement FIRST Lego League’s Core Values. There are eight Core Values and this team latched on to “have fun, we are a team, and always practice gracious professionalism.” Students had to solve an unknown problem at the qualifier and demonstrate understanding of the Core Values.
Lastly, students competed in the Robot Challenge! This is the part of the competition that students really look forward to. Game boards were set up in the Cypress Lake Middle School and there was a MC and loud music. Students needed to have their programmed robots complete various missions on the board. Robots are fun, but programming a robot to complete very specific missions requires a lot of trial and error and most of all patience. LaBelle’s students had two and half minutes to earn as many points as they could in three different matches.
Mrs. Akin led a rookie team and there was a massive learning curve this year. The team cannot wait to build on their knowledge for next year’s season and the younger students cannot wait to begin learning how to program the robot. “I learned that programming a robot is a lot like writing essays. You have something to say and you write it, then read it, edit it, scratch some parts out, add other parts and read it again to see if the essay conveys the ideas that you want to convey. This kind of learning is 21st century learning and so valuable to our kids in Hendry County,” said Mrs. Akin.