Robots to the Rescue

Nov. 02, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Saving civilians from tsunamis and building robots with Lego blocks is all in a day’s work for some East Rutherford Middle School sixth-graders.

These students are members of Rutherford County’s first robotics team and are practicing to compete with schools around the state in the spring.

Jovielle Clark, sixth-grade teacher, is the facilitator for the team. He received an email about the competition from CyberKids Robotics and brought the idea to Jo Oliver, principal at the middle school.

“I thought this is something the students would like to do and the principal felt it would be good,” Clark said. “We are hoping that maybe more schools will start to participate and we can have a county competition next year.”

From there, the school went through a selection process and created sixth and seventh grade teams. The seventh-grade team will start soon with cyber droids, but the sixth-grade team has already started practicing in a different category and will be competing in a First Lego League (FLL) competition.

“I wanted to be on the team because my dad is really good with Legos

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and i wanted to show him I could be good with it,” said student Olivia Hallman. “It’s been fun and it’s going pretty good.”

In the fall, the FLL releases a challenge which is based on a real-world scientific topic. Each challenge has three parts; the Robot Game, the Project and the FLL Core Values. Teams of up to 10 children participate in the challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (game board) and develop a solution to a problem they have identified using certain values laid out by the league.

The 2013 challenge is called Nature’s Fury. According to Clark, the team is working on their project, which will represent the aftermath of a tsunami and our in the process if designing and building their robot.

“We are meeting two or three times a week. I’m letting them do everything. My job is just to guide them,” Clark said.

Jordyn Haney, a Gardner-Webb University student employed by CyberKids, is helping the team plan how they want to build their robot.

“I’ve taught at several schools in Cleveland County. I’m going to help them with setting up the game board and programming their robot,” Haney said. “They love making their robot do something they can actually see.”

During the challenge, the students have to move Lego people that are impacted by the tsunami into a safe zone and complete other tasks using the robot they programmed. They have two minutes and thrity seconds to complete the challenge.

“It like science and I like building stuff,” said team member Justin Irvin. “This is fun and we are going to win.”

The sixth-grade team will attend their first competition in the spring. The seventh-grade team will be put together and start practicing soon.