This year’s theme was “Senior Solutions,” so the students built a robot that would assist seniors with common problems, such as leaving the oven turned on or assisting with housework. The robots were scored on how many of these “missions” they completed in a specified time.
The robots had to be created using LEGO parts and a small computer. This was the first year that SEMS has competed in this event, but Assistant Principal John Randolph, who coached the team, said he believes they will be competing again next year.
“This was our first year so we were just learning,” Randolph said. “We wanted to see what it was about, and we had a good time with it.”
The team also programmed the computer using symbolic-based programming software on the computer, which Randolph said was a good way to introduce the idea to the students early.
“It is a good learning experience for the kids,” Randolph said. “It’s easy for the kids to understand once they know what’s going on.”
The teams were judged on the scores of the robots as well as the score on a prototype of a product they thought would benefit a senior citizen. Each team partnered with a member of the community who was 65 years old or older to discuss what the needs of seniors were.
The SEMS team then created a prototype of a walking cane that attached to a cell phone to allow seniors to interact with someone on the phone.
The phone could also be used for video chatting, enabling a caregiver to watch the senior take their medication from afar. The cane prototype also had a feature that would enable the dispensation of medication from the cane.
The final portion of the judgement was based on questions the students answered about the core values of the project. These included ideals such as teamwork, which was the value that the SEMS team focused on.
When the final competition was completed, the SEMS team was awarded the first-place trophy for their project.
The competition team consisted of Avery Bradford, Tyler Goodwin, Jarron Goodwin, Emily Hester, Tanner Hester, Matthew Levan and Karlie Stephens. Randolph and Amanda Stephens coached the team and Rachel Bradford and Jennifer Goodwin were the parent mentors.
The FIRST LEGO League is affiliated with the FIRST Robotics Competition that the Walker County Center of Technology’s Gear Heads compete in annually. The partnership with LEGO allows the program to include younger children by eliminating the need for fabricating the way older students do.
“We’ve had a lot of interest for next year,” Randolph said. “Kids like LEGOs and it’s safe so we don’t have to worry about them cutting their hands or getting hurt building the robot.”