Multiple teams from the area recently competed in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition, including a Nov. 11 tournament at Corning Community College and a Dec. 10 regional championship at the University of Rochester.
Although the competition does involve building LEGO robots and using them to complete scored tasks, that’s just a part of what the program asks from 4th-8th graders.
“A lot of people will hear LEGO robotics and think they’re just playing with LEGOs and programming, which is a small component,” said Jenna Chervenic, who coordinates the teams at the Alternative School for Math and Science (ASMS) along with fellow faculty member Mike Weachock.
“FLL really talks about core values, that what you learn is more important than what you win, (and) the value of teamwork,” Chervenic said.
Each team competes in four areas: Robot design and programming, a project presentation, core values (teamwork and sportsmanship) and the robotics competition.
“The project component has to do with innovative solutions to the problems (competition organizers) outline each year,” she added. “And it has nothing to do with LEGO or robotics.”
ASMS fielded four teams: Concrete Evidence, Fishy Waters, H2Pros and Water You Doing?
The latter two teams advanced to the Dec. 10 regional competition along with Children of Poseidon, sponsored by Corning Robotics/Corning Inc. and coached by Mike Simons, with the help of three assistant coaches and some parents.
The Children of Poseidon team is made up of 10 kids ages 9-12 from Corning, Horseheads and Elmira.
“It was just a remarkable opportunity to have that representation out of the Corning area,” Simons said.
Chervenic said all the area teams had opportunities to interact with each other.
“It’s become this team environment of seeing how we can learn from each other,” she said.
At the regional competition, Simons’ Children of Poseidon, along with their finicky but eventually highly effective robot, presented their project for a gutter system for farm greenhouses.
“The USDA recognizes when you install a greenhouse, it disrupts how the fields nearby handle water,” Simons said. “The projects this year were all water-based. It was explorations of the human water cycle.”
ASMS’ H2Pros presented a concept for floating stills for purifying water, using an origami design to increase the surface area of the device and clean more water faster.
But it was Water You Doing? that wowed the judges with the team’s game to teach young children in the developing world about the importance of clean drinking water, something people they spoke to who work in those countries said is difficult to communicate.
The team is up for the Global Innovation award, and could win up to $20,000 when the final judging is completed in June.
Simons’ Children of Poseidon didn’t go unrecognized, however.
“My team won the Gracious Professionalism award because of what the judges saw in them,” Simons said. “They’re just great kids. They were great teammates and great competitors.”