Seven students from District 91 will compete in the First Lego League Nano Quest, a state robotics competition in January. The team has been preparing for more than two months now and is learning some of the fundamentals of a relatively new scientific realm, nanotechnology.
The First Lego League competition requires teams to construct and program a robot to perform the challenge missions. This year’s project relates to nanotechnology, in which particles are 100,000 times smaller than a strand of hair, according to the First Lego League’s Web site. Some scientists believe this kind of technology will aid in everything from curing diseases, space travel and wiping out hunger.
The advent of truly stain-resistant clothing and better tennis balls are just some of the ways that nanotechnology has already been integrated into our daily lives.
Of course, before tomorrow’s scientists can save the world, they first need to figure out how to control their Lego robots.
“We weren’t really expecting to get to state when we first started,” Grace Finn, the coach and District 91 computer teacher, said. “We had a goal to complete three or four of the eight missions during the regional competition, and it turned out that our four missions were sure-fire hits.”
Those sure-fire missions helped propel the team to the state competition after placing in the top five at the regional competition. But the regional contest was an uphill battle after the team faced a mishap early in the competition.
“By the end of the first round, we were in last,” Finn said. “Then we realized that we had accidentally grabbed and used our backup robot for the first round.”
After switching back to their primary robot, the team jumped to first by the end of the second round and performed each of the sections successfully. Teams had to participate in four different robot competitions, an individual presentation for the judges on their robot and one on teamwork, and finally an entertaining skit on nanotechnology and solar power.
While the students proved that their teamwork was solid, several team members differed on what was most challenging during the regional competition.
“The missions were very hard, like the dirt trap mission,” sixth-grader Josh Robins said. “It was hard to get the robot at the perfect angle.”
Ariana Vargas found that the technology was not the biggest challenge; rather it was the performance.
“The skit and talking to the judges were the hardest part of the competition,” Vargas, a seventh-grader said. “I thought I would forget my lines, so I was scared out of my mind.”
Overall, Finn was very happy with the team’s performance and is excited about the state competition that takes place on Jan. 11 and 12.
“I was especially pleased with their ability to communicate to the judges about the problems encountered and how they solved them.”
The chance to work with an intriguing and growing new technology was certainly one of the positives of the competition. For Dana Margimen, a sixth-grade student, the chance to work with new people was also rewarding.
“I got a chance to meet other people who had the same interests as me,” Margimen said. “It was fun learning more about robots and meeting people who I can work with and be a team with.”