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Central Coast Elementary, Junior High Schools to Compete in Weekend Robotics Tournament

Twenty-three teams of elementary and junior high school students from the Santa Maria Valley and all over the Central Coast will be competing in a robotics tournament hosted by the Orcutt Academy High School robotics team this Saturday at Lakeview Junior High School in Orcutt.

Competition will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude by 4:30 p.m. Teams from as far away as Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo will compete at this Los Angeles Region FIRST Lego League Championship Qualifying Tournament being held for the second 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 is 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.

In the 2013 NATURE’S FURY Challenge, over 200,000 children ages 9 to 16 from over 70 countries will explore the awe-inspiring storms, quakes, waves and more that we call natural disasters. The game requires the students’ machines to perform tasks that help people and families protect themselves from natural disasters while acting only upon the preprogrammed 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," OAHS robotics team faculty advisor Ty Fredriks said. "These young engineers are fired up about being able to show off their awesome robots and inspiring projects!”

The project requires the students choose a community in which a natural disaster may occur, identify a problem that may occur because of that natural disaster, and then devise an innovative solution to prepare or protect humans from that disaster. 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. All FIRST Robotics Events are free for spectators, and all interested families are invited to come enjoy the competition from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

— Ty Fredriks is a science teacher and Lego competition organizer for Orcutt Academy High School.

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