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Kodiak Robotics teams ‘inspires’ at state LEGO tournament

January 23, 2017
Kodiak Robotics teams ‘inspires’ at state LEGO tournament
By Noelle H. Lowery

Saturday, January 14, was a big day for the AKTEACH RoboBears.

The robotics team from Kodiak Island Borough School District was awarded the Judges Award for Inspiration at the Alaska First Lego League (FLL) Robotics State Tournament — the Alaska Robot Rendezvous. While 58 teams from all over the state participated in the competition, the RoboBears were one of 17 teams who received an award.

What makes this accomplishment even more important is that the RoboBears are a first-year team with first-year coaches, parent volunteers Mike Munson and Jeremy Stewart. The RoboBears earned their spot at the state tournament when they won the Judge’s Award for Outstanding Performance at the December Regional Qualifier Tournament, competing against 14 other schools in the virtual event. Also competing at the regional qualifier from Kodiak were the North Star Elementary Navigators.

These tournaments are sponsored by FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — a Manchester, NH-based 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. Beyond robots, FIRST is based in design-accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.

With guidance from their adult coaches, FLL teams of up to 10 members in grades 4-8 apply science, engineering and math concepts, plus a big dose of imagination, in a three-fold competition. First, the teams develop solutions to a real-world challenge and create a formal presentation of these ideas, and second, they design, build and program LEGO MINDSTORMS-based robots to perform autonomous “missions” on a table-top playing field.

The third component focuses on solving these problems using the challenge’s core values:
  • We are a team.
  • We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
  • We know our coaches and mentors don't have all the answers; we learn together.
  • We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
  • What we discover is more important than what we win.
  • We share our experiences with others.
  • We display gracious professionalism® and cooperation in everything we do.
  • We have FUN!

The theme for the 2016-2017 challenge is “Animal Allies,” and it explores how humans and animals can work together and help each other in everyday life. The project and presentation portion of the competition asks teams to pick a situation when people and animals interact, identify a specific problem to solve from that interaction and devise a solution to the problem that improves on something that already exists, uses something that exists in a new way or creates a totally new solution. Finally, the teams create presentations to share these ideas, employing posters, slideshows, models, multimedia clips, props, costumes or anything else that help convey the message.

The robot portion of the challenge incorporates a number of “missions” for teams and their robots to attempt. Staying with the “Animal Allies” theme, some of these missions included putting a shark figurine in a small tank and transporting it across the playing field, placing pieces of food on a specific target, moving a human and an animal into correct training and research zones and moving items from one area of the table-top playing field to another.

For the presentation portion of the competition, the RoboBears chose the problem of bears killing chickens, which as anyone who lives on Kodiak Island knows can be a big problem for some. The team’s solution: To create an alarm that was audible to bears but not to people. 
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