On a recently Saturday morning, elementary and middle school students from across Surry and Yadkin counties converged upon Surry Community College to compete in the 2022 NC FIRST Regional Qualifying Event, sponsored by Surry First Lego League (FLL) and Surry Community College.
Teams representing Mount Airy, Surry County, Elkin and Yadkin County schools, took part in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) event with the hopes of taking the championship back to their district and school.
“Each year FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) selects a theme and develops a series of missions where competitors must learn, research, problem solve, and program their way through four competitive areas: core values, innovative project, robot design, and the robot game challenge.
“The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,” organizers said. “With adult Coaches to guide them, FIRST Lego League teams (up to 10 members) apply science, engineering, and math concepts, plus a big dose of imagination to develop solutions to real-world challenges. They also design, build, and program Lego Mindstorms or Spike Prime-based robots to perform autonomous ‘missions’ on a playing field. Along the way, they develop critical thinking, team-building, and presentation skills.”
Jeff Edwards, Science Institute coordinator for Surry County Schools, coordinated the event with the North Carolina FIRST Lego League Planning Committee.
“This year’s theme was, ‘superpowered,’” he said. “Teams were given the task to re-image the future of sustainable energy and power their ideas forward. Teams also had to prepare a presentation on their solution to the chosen problem. All members of a team must take part in the presentation and each team has no more than five minutes to sell their idea to the judges.” This year’s winners in the project category were the Solar Warriors of Central Middle School.
Edwards also shared, “Core values are the heart of the program. Through core values, teams express the FIRST philosophies of gracious professionalism and ‘coopertition.‘ Student participants learn that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals and that helping each other is the foundation of teamwork. Participants are expected to display and uphold these core values in all that they do. Teams demonstrate core values to the judges by preparing a brief presentation on how they expressed these values as they completed this year’s preparations, and by engaging in a challenge designed to show how well teams shared the load and worked together to accomplish a task.”
This year’s winners in the core values event were Team Panther Attack of Yadkin County Schools.
“Robot design mimics a real-world engineering design review,” Edwards said. “In this event, teams must present their robots to judges who are tasked with determining how well teams used attachments, body shape design, and programming to get the robot they built to accomplish the missions created for the robot challenge. Using Lego bricks teams may build whatever attachments they think will help their robot in completing missions. They may also choose from an assortment of sensors to add to the robot.”
The winners of the Robot Design category were Team Robush of Yadkin County School.
“The highlight and public portion of the competition takes place in the afternoon, the Robot Runs,” Edwards said. “In the Robot Runs competition, teams must program a robot using coding skills to accomplish a series of missions relating to the theme Superpowered. Robots had to move energy units, battery packs and interact with energy production and consumption models as they completed missions on a robot playing field. Completing these missions earn points and the team whose robot attained the highest score is named the winner.”
The 2022 winners of the local tournament were Team Robush of Yadkin County Schools.
The Judges’ Award this year went to The Franklin Robodogs, a rookie team from Franklin Elementary. The Judges’ Award recognizes the team that impressed the judges during the participant presentation component of the competition. The team showed promise with the robot design, programming, strategy and innovation, teamwork, research, and presentation categories. Although not placing first in any of the individually judged categories, The Franklin Robodogs’ name appeared in the top three in multiple categories.
Team Energetic Engineers of Mount Airy City Schools were named the Overall Champions of the tournament. This event qualifies teams to participate in the state tournament held in January.
Maria Blakeney of Pilot Mountain Middle School was named the recipient of the Mentor Award. This award is given to an individual who has inspired their team to do their best, both as individuals and together. Mentors are nominated by a team member or member of the school community. After all nominations are submitted, judges review the information submitted and choose one winner. Blakeney’s guidance and leadership are evident among her team and she also served as this year’s competition emcee.
The Surry FLL program is supported by local business partners who recognize the value of the Lego FIRST Robotics Program to help students develop career skills as they participate in the program; career skills to prepare them for entering the workforce. To further enhance students’ skill sets, Surry Community College offers the Mechatronics Program. Students studying in the Mechatronics Program are able to be a part of the local pipeline into the STEM workforce.
This year’s sponsors of Surry FLL included Renfro Brands, NCFI Polyurethanes, Insteel Industries Inc., Northern Regional Hospital of Surry County, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, Surry Economic Development, and SouthData. “We are extremely grateful for their support of the FLL program. The support of these business partners made today possible. It was awesome to see all of these teams exemplifying STEM and demonstrating what they have learned and how much can be accomplished with teamwork” Edwards said.
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