ARY — Robinson Elementary will be representing Eastern Kentucky in a state robotics league in February, and they’re the first team from the area to advance this far in the competition.
According to their website, the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League is “a robotics program for 9 to 16-year-olds, which is designed to get children excited about science and technology — and teach them valuable employment and life skills.”
Coach and science teacher Michael Slagell said the team had four areas they were judged in: robot design, research, core values, and the robot games. Out of these, the team scored distinguished in core values, where team work and critical thinking skills are highly valued.
“They’re (the team) being really hard on themselves; we did better than we thought,” Slagell said.
Slagell said he was not surprised the team scored so well in core values. During other parts of the competition it was clear the team worked well together, working through problems all the way until the last minute of their allotted time, which Slagell said helped them in scoring.
Alysa Daniels, a 6th grader, said it felt good to know her team scored so well based on values a good team should have, but she knows they will have to work hard to score just as well in the other three areas.
“Core values is, pretty much, you can’t really practice for core values, they kind of just give you a problem to solve and an amount of time you have to perform it in,” Daniels said. “I think we had high hopes, be we didn’t think we would do this good.”
Robinson’s team, coached by Michael and Faith Slagell and Jan Gibson, is the first of its kind at the school. Slagell said Tom Cravens with the Challenger Center in Hazard was responsible for supplying grant money to Robinson and other schools in the area that were interested in having a team for a competition like this.
“Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, these kids are learning to excel in those four areas. They’re learning more and more about technology and engineering and how it’s important in our daily lives. That’s what it’s about, when it comes right down to it,” Slagell said of what the grant is doing for his students
Slagell explained that all the work and creativity for the team, which consists of eight 6th graders and one 8th grader, came from the kids.
“The work they’ve done, the skit that they’re putting together, all of that was their idea. They wrote the skit, they did the research, the robot itself they designed it, they figured out the computer programs to do the different missions; all we did was facilitate,” Slagell said. “It was student driven, in other words.”
This year’s theme for the competition was Senior Solutions. Slagell said the student’s brainstormed and came up with a problem senior citizens have that they would develop a solution for based on things they had learned in his science class.
“I had shared with them in science class, saying that in farming a lot of equipment now has GPS units and are self-driven. Well, being it’s robots and technology, they said OK, we’re going to have a GPS guided lawn mower,” Slagell said.
Eighth-grader Dustin Johnson said he and teammate Harley Noble were a big part in researching GPS for their project.
“When I started doing research on the GPS guided lawn mower, it was fairly extensive research,” Johnson said. “It turns out it’s pretty complex stuff when it gets down to it.”
Slagell said the state competition will be held in Bowling Green on Feb. 2, which leaves the team little time to prepare.
“We’re going to try everything we can to win,” Slagell said. “They’ve amazed me all year long, what that little bunch has done, and I’ve learned not to underestimate them. Who knows what they’re capable of?”