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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 6:37 am | Fair 39º


LEGOnardo Da Vincis Finish Perfect Season with 1st Place at FLL Cup Invitational

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The LEGOnardo Da Vincis, a group of seven young students from the Santa Barbara HomeSchool Robotics Academy, have competed in their final tournament of the season, the FIRST Lego League FLL Cup Invitational held at LEGOLAND California and earned another first-place trophy.

The local Santa Barbara team achieved the highest robot performance score out of the 60 teams participating in the event to capture the first-place award. At FIRST Lego League competitions, each team is given three opportunities at the robot game table to operate their robot autonomously in a 2½-minute round to score as many points possible by executing predefined “missions.” Each team participating has designed, built and programmed a unique robot from the LEGO Mindstorms kit.

The FIRST program — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — was founded by notable inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen. The FIRST organization is dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use and enjoy science and technology.

The LEGOnardo DaVincis have been undefeated at the robot performance game throughout the four tournaments they have competed in this season. In addition to this most recent first place at the FLL Cup, they have previously won first place in robot performance at a local tournament held at Peabody Charter School in Santa Barbara in October, followed by first place at the FLL Qualifying Tournament held at California Lutheran University in November, and another first place at the Los Angeles Region FLL Championship tournament held in December.

Team members are Hunter Christenson, Marissa Condie, Micah Condie, Matthew Helkey, Jade Mueller-Galbraith, Christopher Therrien and Michael Therrien.

The Santa Barbara HomeSchool Robotics Academy, founded by Suzan and Craig Christenson, brings home-schooled kids age 9-14 together each year to participate in the annual FIRST Lego League challenge. The FLL program creates an opportunity for students to learn engineering principles, computer programming, strategic planning, problem solving and team building in a hands-on, fun environment.

“We are very proud of the team’s accomplishment this year,” said Craig Christenson, the academy co-founder and coach.

“The tournaments bring teams together to compete, but also to share ideas on how different approaches to the robot design and programming are used to solve the mission challenges,” he continued. “Although the robots are all assembled from a standard LEGO Mindstorms kit, the rules allow for any piece of LEGO to be used in the robot design. As a result, out of the 60 teams competing at the FLL Cup Invitational Tournament, no two robots looked alike and the strategy used by each team to accomplish the missions was unique.”

Suzan Christenson, the academy’s other co-founder and coach, agreed.

“This group of kids certainly had a great season,” she said. “I believe this is our first team that has ever gone undefeated throughout all tournaments. The approach the team used consistently during the season was to think outside the box as they innovated on robot design and programming solutions.”

A good example of this is the catapult device the LEGOnardos use to knock over the bowling pins (see photo of robot being lined up for this mission). Whereas conventional wisdom would suggest rolling the bowling ball to knock over the pins, the LEGOnardo DaVincis designed a catapult that flings the ball across the table for a very effective, time-efficient solution to the mission, saving valuable seconds for scoring other missions. Although the LEGOnardo Da Vincis were the original innovators of this unusual technique for the bowling pin mission, it was interesting to note that several other teams had adopted a catapult as well by the Los Angeles Region Championship Tournament.

The LEGOnardo DaVincis will now enjoy some time off before their next season starts in mid-September when the 2013 FLL Challenge will be released.

Click here for more information on the Santa Barbara HomeSchool Robotics Academy and the LEGOnardo DaVincis, including a video of their robot in action.

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