Foothill Lego Robotics Team Advances to National Championship Tournament

Foothill LEGO Lovers AND BEYOND! began their second season in FIRST Lego League (FLL) this August with Foothill students Cami and Mia Chou (4th graders), Brandon Heslin (5th grader), and Albert Miao.  In addition, two Foothill alumni Chloe Chou and Christian Heslin returned to stay with the group.

FLL is open to students around the world between the ages of 9 and 14 (North America), or 9 to 16 (for the rest of the world). About 20,000 teams compete, using the same Challenge and same robot field mat. Every year, FLL releases a Challenge topic based on a real-world scientific issue.  The Challenge has three parts: The Robot Game, the Research Project, and the FLL Core Values.

Although many people are familiar with the Robot Game, the other two components also weigh heavily in the competition. For the Robot Game, the teams are engineers, learning to build and program an autonomous robot to score points on a playing field within a set 2.5 minutes time. In the Research Project, the students must become scientists and do research on a particular problem, and then come up with a new and innovative solution.  They also must go on field trips to contact and interview “experts” and professors.  Then they must then develop and present a skit that describes the problem they researched and the solution they developed.

FLL Core Values are a set of values that govern how participants should conduct themselves both during the tournament and in everyday life.  Some of the core values include:  working as a team, maintaining the spirit of friendly competition, valuing learning as more important than winning, sharing their experiences with others, and having lots of fun.  Students work to embody these values at the tournaments and demonstrate that they follow them outside of FLL.

The kids must research and perform a presentation to judges for all three areas.  They have also have at least 3 robot runs where they try to score the most points during the 2.5 minutes. So during the tournaments, the kids are usually pretty busy either preparing for or actually presenting to judges in 3 different topics and 3-4 robot runs.

This year the topic is “Senior Solutions”.  The Challenge is for FLL teams to improve the quality of life for seniors by helping them continue to be independent, engaged, and connected in their communities.  Foothill LEGO Lovers AND BEYOND came up with a motivational program using a “SAVVEE ” wristwatch.  SAVVEE stands for “Seniors being Active with a Value generating, Voice activated, Engaging, and Entertaining” Companion.  It’s a smart watch that links into an innovative rewards program designed to encourage seniors to be more active by giving them bonus points which they can trade in for cash or discounts.

Foothill LEGO Lovers AND BEYOND! competed in two practice tournaments, one in Santa Barbara on October 28th, and one in Somis on Nov 4th.  They performed well in both practice tournaments, winning the Champions Award in the Somis competition.  Nine Santa Barbara teams competed in the FLL tournaments, including a team from Goleta Family School.

Although the team only meets once a week, most of the work happens outside of the meetings.  Almost every week there is “homework” for each participant to research and/or to develop attachments or software programming for their robot.

The team competed in their first official tournament, the Qualifying Tournament in Santa Maria on November 17th and won

the Champions Award there.  Seven teams from that tournament (including Foothill LEGO Lovers AND BEYOND!) moved on to the Los Angeles Region Championship Tournament, held at Chatsworth on December 15th.  Two other Santa Barbara based teams, Flaming Pancakes of Peabody School and Legonardo Da Vincis of Santa Barbara Homeschool Robotics Academy also advanced to the LA Regional Championship tournament.

At Chatsworth, Foothill LEGO Lovers AND BEYOND competed against 35 other teams and won the Champions Award, 2nd place.  Only two teams get to advance from Regionals. The first place team was selected to represent LA Region in the International Championship Tournament in St. Louis. Foothill LEGO Lovers AND Beyond! was the other team to move on.  They will represent the LA Region in the National Championship Tournament at Legoland, in Carlsbad, CA from May 17-19.

The Foothill program is the result of the hard work of Ri-Pen, an engineer who works for  FLIR.  He has spent long hours in the past year and one half developing the program, teaching classes, training teachers, and soliciting donations from local businesses.  We are thankful for his generosity!