Middle School Robotics Team to Compete at State Qualifier

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This year’s LEGO robotics team is preparing for the state tournament qualifying competition that will be held at Salmon Creek Elementary School on December 6th. The team consists of  Michael Gabalis, Lee Gilkerson, Frances Helling, Mckayla Shippen, Delani Stepper, Lexi Williams, Trace Logan, and Aaron Shaw. Michael Gabalis and Lee Gilkerson are returning from last year’s team that competed at the First LEGO League North American Championships in San Diego.

Robotics Team         

            This year’s theme is “World Class Learning Unleashed” and the research project potion of the competition requires the team to identify a specific group of students and create an innovative lesson that “improves the learning experience” for them. This innovative solution must then be shared with others.

            The team has chosen to do research about the “common core” standards that are being implemented nationwide, and to teach a common core type of lesson on how to calculate the volume of a cube, a rectangular prism, and a triangular prism to seventh grade students. This lesson was chosen in part because this is specifically one of the common core standards that seventh graders are expected to master. Before choosing this specific lesson the students consulted with Mrs. DeBower on the standards, and listened to a presentation by Mrs. Lutz, the building expert on the common core.

            The team’s innovative solution started by reviewing calculating the surface area of squares, rectangles, and triangles, something that is covered in the 6th grade standards. The students were then given a short lesson on the famous mathematician Archimedes who discovered the idea of measuring the volume of a solid by measuring how much water it displaced (Eureka!). The team used a 3D printer to make various sizes of cubes, rectangular pyramids, and triangular pyramids. These were then measured by the 7th grade volunteer students, and the volume was calculated by using Archimedes’ method. The 7th graders were then asked if they could derive the equation for calculating the volume of the various shaped by using the measurements they had made. This meant that instead of students being given the equation for calculating the volume, they were expected to derive the equation based on observations that they had made. Common core curriculum emphasizes thinking skills, and analysis of data more than previous curriculums.

            For the robot part of the competition the programmers and builders have developed two robots that do things like throw a ball with a catapult, activate pneumatic systems that hook objects to bring them back to base, run an arm with a rack and pinion gear, and fling LEGO pieces eight feet across the table. The latter is not required by the game, but is pretty cool. They are now concentrating on consolidating the two robots into one.

            During the Project portion of the competition the team will be given five minutes to present their research, and the panel of judges will have five minutes to ask any questions they want. The robot game will be played three times with points being earned for each “mission” that the robot can accomplish within a two and a half minute run. The robot and its software will be judged by mechanical and software engineers, and the team will be graded on its teamwork and adherence to First LEGO League core values. The top three teams at the preliminary competition will advance to the Oregon state tournament in January.