CRESTVIEW — Bob Sikes Elementary School's Rockin' Robots Lego team will return to a statewide competition for the second straight year.
The nine-student team will travel to Orlando to compete against 47 teams in the First Lego League state championship on March 3. The league aims to help students learn about science and technology by working as a team while constructing Lego robots and programming them to accomplish certain tasks.
"This is a huge accomplishment for our team," Coach Ulaunda Nunn, who teaches writing, social studies and science, said. "We are really proud of them.”
Many of last year's members have graduated to middle school, said Nunn, who shares coaching duties with Dottie Holland, a math and science teacher.
"Out of the nine students we have in the program, only three are returning from last year," she said, noting current members’ swift achievement.
Programming the ‘brain’
One of last year’s returning students, fifth-grader Lauren Clark, 10, said she anticipates next month’s competition.
"I feel good about this competition," Lauren said. "This year I am doing the programming."
Each Lego robot, which the students design, is operated by a small computer device — called the "brain" or "brick” — that gives direction. Students program the brain on a laptop computer.
"This has been a really interesting thing for me, because I have never programmed anything before," Lauren said. "It’s really cool to see (the robot) go all by itself without using any force on it."
Neither students nor coaches may assist their robot while it’s set on the track. To do so would result in a loss of points.
"The competition can last from eight to 10 hours and they have to be well behaved, focused and stay on task," Nunn said. "They can't run around and play."
In this year’s “Senior Solutions”-themed robotic competition, each team's robot must successfully complete tasks that senior citizens deal with daily. For example, a robot must select the correct colored tablet using a sensor. This task mimics how seniors must select medication from a medicine cabinet. Teams must perform as many robotic tasks as they can within two-and-a-half minutes.
In addition, each team will work with senior citizens to identify a problem facing seniors and present a solution for it.
The Rockin' Robots interviewed a number of local seniors and decided to create a user-friendly website for senior citizens interested in volunteering or mentoring at local schools. This website would help seniors find the type of volunteer work they want to do at the nearest school, Nunn said. The team received help from Deborah Buchanan, who designed the school's website.
The league’s top five teams have a chance to compete nationally, Holland said.
Holland put the team’s accomplishment in perspective.
"There are 503 teams in the state of Florida and these guys (the Rockin’ Robots) are one of 48 that are going to state," Holland said. "They are the only elementary team from this area going."
Three schools on Okaloosa County’s north end, including Davidson and Shoal River middle schools, have Lego league teams.
Both schools were also represented at the regional tournament, which took place Feb. 2 in Panama City.
Bob Sikes’ after-school program — available to the school’s fourth- and fifth-graders — attracts plenty of interest, but achievement determines a team member’s role, group leaders said.
"We normally start out with 35 kids and we have to get it down to 10 or less, which can be heartbreaking," Nunn said.