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They're learning with LEGOS

Talmadge students compete at state robotics tournament

Eighth-grader Ethan Davis and seventh-grader Robert “Scooter” Reid line up a LEGO robot to put it through its paces on the mat in preparation for Saturday’s state tournament in Hillsboro. The team, made up of 10 boys, did not take away any awards, but did learn a lot for next year. They used three different robots for a variety of challenges at the First LEGO League tournament.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Eighth-grader Ethan Davis and seventh-grader Robert “Scooter” Reid line up a LEGO robot to put it through its paces on the mat in preparation for Saturday’s state tournament in Hillsboro. The team, made up of 10 boys, did not take away any awards, but did learn a lot for next year. They used three different robots for a variety of challenges at the First LEGO League tournament.

January 21, 2014

INDEPENDENCE — The Talmadge Middle School Short Circuit Brick Bombers LEGO Robotics team competed in the First LEGO League state tournament in Hillsboro on Saturday.

Although the team didn't win any awards, members gained a lot of information about how the competition works, said Talmadge eighth-grade teacher Brad Biery.

Team member Rufus Schrader didn't expect such a large audience at the tournament.

"I was so nervous when I was in front of all those people," he said after the competition.

The team made it to the state tournament after its name was drawn from a hat.

"We chose to miss the qualifying tournament in McMinnville because of the snow," said eighth-grader Ethan Davis.

Talmadge wasn't the only school that couldn't make it to the qualifiers because of the bad weather in early December.

"Because of that, we were put in a hat, and one of our teams was drawn to go to state," Biery said.

On Friday, the team of 10 boys was putting the finishing touches on both its skit and presentation on the mat, where the team's robots — made entirely of LEGOS — will be put through their paces. The team has three robots to use for different tasks. There is one girl on the team, but she wasn't able to attend the competition.

One of three LEGO robots used at the state tournament in Hillsboro on Saturday sits waiting to be tested.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

One of three LEGO robots used at the state tournament in Hillsboro on Saturday sits waiting to be tested.

This year's theme for the competition was "nature's fury." Robots must either prevent or cause a natural disaster, Ethan explained.

Robert "Scooter" Reid, a seventh-grader, demonstrated the earthquake simulation.

The robot didn't accomplish the task as it should, he said. It did hit the platform where two buildings stood, but only one building was supposed to be knocked down.

"It's supposed to demonstrate when a building is on rollers, it absorbs the shock," Scooter said. "This (other building) is fixed."

He sat down at the computer to tweak the program and tried again, nearly successful.

Programming the LEGO robot is much different than other programming, Ethan said. He was the major programmer for the robot last year.

"We use bricks to tell it what to do," he said.

This robot is different from the first model, with more advanced wheels and more sensors.

Ethan Davis restacks LEGO logs on a catapult-like device, while Robert “Scooter” Reid takes aim at a LEGO-made emergency vehicle with a LEGO robot.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Ethan Davis restacks LEGO logs on a catapult-like device, while Robert “Scooter” Reid takes aim at a LEGO-made emergency vehicle with a LEGO robot.

The first model had treads instead of wheels.

"The treads were slowing us down," Ethan said. Originally, the LEGO engineers thought the treads would help in the obstacle part of the competition, where the robot has to climb over various barriers built with LEGOS.

"But we found that the treads will only go so far with these robots," Ethan said.

This is the second year Talmadge has sported a LEGO robotics team, and already students are feeling more confident and enthusiastic, Biery said.

"Some of the kids know more (this year); I know more," he said.

The team was eliminated in the qualifiers last year.

"We destroyed the entire mat," Ethan recalled. "Our robot was trying to get up and over to the other team."

"I heard it went berserk and destroyed the other robots," Scooter added.

Biery said he is proud of the team's accomplishments at the tournament.

"The robots that were used for competitions completed more challenges than ever before, so the team members were thrilled," he said.

Scooter said the experience of state competition and the things they learned there will help them do better next year.

To help the team continue next year, contributions may be made to Talmadge Middle School for the LEGO Robotics team. The team also can use donations of LEGOS, but they must be LEGO brand bricks to be eligible for use in the competitions.

How does it work?

Students use a NXT kit, which comes with a programmable brick. They use other LEGO bricks to complete the robot, and then program the block to follow commands. Robots must accomplish certain tasks or overcome certain objects on the mat - where students have built a LEGO obstacle course.

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