Twenty-four teams of elementary and junior high school students from the Santa Maria Valley and all over Southern California will be competing in a robotics tournament hosted by the Orcutt Academy High School robotics team on Saturday at Lakeview Junior High School in Orcutt.
Competition will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude by 4 p.m. Teams from as far away as Culver City and Palmdale will compete at this Los Angeles Region FIRST LEGO League Championship Qualifying Tournament being held for the first time on the Central Coast.
Many of the teams are mentored by the OAHS robotics team members in rudimentary programming and electrical skills for this year’s challenge and coached by the students’ parents and teachers. This competition is part of the FIRST LEGO League program and will be the first of its kind on the Central Coast.
The competition has three components: robot design, research project and core values. The robot game and project are what teams do, and the core values guide teams through the experience.
This year’s competition is titled “Senior Solutions: and is designed to answer one question: Can FIRST LEGO League teams improve the quality of life for seniors by helping them continue to be independent, engaged and connected in their communities?
The game requires the students’ machines to perform tasks that help senior citizens while acting only upon the pre-programmed commands of students.
“I am glad that the OAHS Robotics team can increase the interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in younger students,” said Ty Fredriks, robotics team faculty adviser at Orcutt Academy High School.
The project requires the students to interview a senior partner, discover an area of challenge facing senior citizens, and then devise and present an innovative solution to that problem. The core values that the students take away from the experience are that helping each other is the foundation of teamwork, and that friendly competition and mutual gain are not mutually exclusive.
The robots are made using a LEGO product known as NXT MindStorm, and the game is played on a 96-inch-by-48-inch table made for the challenge.
— Ty Fredriks is a science teacher and robotics team faculty adviser at Orcutt Academy High School.