Marissa GOULD, Intern
LEGOs are the world’s favorite building blocks. They’ve made everything from the Starship Enterprise to Hogwarts. But at La Cañada High School on Sunday, Nov 24, LEGOs were used to build robots. The occasion was the annual For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – FIRST – LEGO League (FLL) BlockHead Qualifier, which this year had 32 teams of up to 10 kids ages 9 to 14 from local elementary schools and Girl Scout troops competing to advance to the Los Angeles Regional Championship Tournament Dec 14 and 15. Seven of these teams were taught by Falkon Robotics 589 from Crescenta Valley High School.
FLL has been running for 13 years and is a contest based on three different competitions.
The first is a research project. FLL gives the teams a question for which they must figure out the best solution. This year’s topic was to how to prepare, survive or rebuild after a natural disaster.
The second is the core values challenge. Each team had to write down what their core values were and then were interviewed to demonstrate that this collection of students was actually becoming a team.
The final competition is when the robots come in. With LEGO’s Mindstorm Platform, these teams had to figure out how to program a robot to go through a pre-determined obstacle course. While the teams do have mentors to help them figure out how to build and program a robot, all the work is done by the kids. For example, the mentors may teach their team an algorithm for turning, but it is up to the team to figure out how to utilize that algorithm so their robot can actually turn.
CVHS parent Lyn Repath-Martos is the mentor for Falkons. She’s the one who matches the teams with their mentors. Martos has been doing this for three years and said she enjoys “every single part of it.” She said that she loves seeing how enthusiastic the mentors are in teaching their team. Just last year, with 14 teams to handle, the mentors clocked in 1300 volunteered hours because they wanted to share the joy of engineering and programming with the younger generation.
The younger generation is excited by robotics as well. One of the kids came up to Repath-Martos and told her that she was so excited to grow up so she could become a mentor when she was old enough.
One of the mentors for Clark Robotics, Pauline Tasci, is a veteran with three years under her belt. She became a mentor because she fell in love with robotics when she joined and wanted to share that love with others. As she mentors her four teams, the thing she said she enjoys seeing the most is when her teams are frustrated. Tasci knows that if her teams are frustrated, then they’ll really have to think outside of the box to figure out the best solution.
Two of Clark’s teams qualified for the regional championship and four of CVHS’ seven teams qualified overall. They’ll be traveling to Torrance on Dec 14 and 15 to compete.