“Next time, we should bring mats and the game setup to practice during the day.”
“The cube-shaped robots tended to be more efficient.”
“We learned a lot about troubleshooting programming.”
“We need a backup robot.”

Last week, members of South Orangetown Middle School’s FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics team debriefed on the previous weekend’s regional tournament in Chappaqua. Although they didn’t place at the event, team members felt that they had gained valuable knowledge that will help them be successful next season.

“Other teams were friendly–friendly competition–we’re going to work on that,” explained Jake P., a sixth-grader who plans to continue with robotics next year. “It’s a place where you can do what you’re skilled at, whether it’s building or programming.”

Learning how to collaborate has been a big part of the experience. “At first, we were arguing a lot, but then we fell into roles that fit with our strengths,” noted sixth-grader Nolan C.

Sixth-grader Shayan H., agreed. “One of the best things is that we became friends.”

Most SOMS FLL team members were introduced to robotics in William O. Schaefer Elementary School and Cottage Lane Elementary School. “I want to be an engineer and robotics is fun,” said sixth-grader Kobi S. “You do things with Lego that you never thought you could do.”

FIRST LEGO League engages students in real-world science, technology and engineering challenges. Teams build and program a LEGO EV3 robot to compete a series of challenges, as well as research and design a solution for an important problem. “Hydro Dynamics” was this year’s challenge and teams worked toward addressing issues with the human water cycle.

“I knew I could create a solution for this challenge, because water usage is something a person can control,” said team member Dowland A. The seventh-grader developed an iOS mobile app, Aqua: Water Usage Tracker–now available in the App Store–that allows users to calculate and monitor personal water consumption during daily activities, such as showering.

Looking ahead, the team is eager to recruit incoming sixth-graders, as well as tech-enthusiastic seventh- and eighth-graders for next year’s team.

“Robotics is all about team-building, rather than one person’s contribution…directing everyone’s energy toward a goal,” Dowland added. “And it’s an opportunity to socialize with people who share your interests.”

Technology teacher and team advisor Kerry Beckmann said that the regional competition was a growth experience for the young team. “I was very proud of how the students performed at their first competition and look forward to returning next year, after we incorporate all we learned,” she said. “New members are still welcome to join us this year; we’ve already had two students sign up after they heard that our team competed at Chappaqua.”

Members of the robotics team smiling in the Challenge Lab Student holding iPhone displaying water conservation app Student building LEGO robot components, looking at computer screen

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