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Wednesday, December 19 , 2018, 2:12 am | Fair 45º

 
 
 
 

Students Show Off Their Engineering Skills at Orcutt Robotics Tournament

Six top teams at FIRST Lego League qualifying event to move on to regional competition next month in Los Angeles

One team donned hand-crafted hats to represent eagles. Another paid homage to Albert Einstein with replica wild hair. And others were sporting matching T-shirts to display their team spirit.

But they all had one goal Saturday — to move on to the next level for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League robotics competition.

Lakeview Junior High School in Orcutt hosted a FIRST Lego League qualifying tournament for 25 teams of fourth- through eighth-graders from schools in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Six top teams will go to the Dec. 13 championship tournament in the Los Angeles region.

“I’m hoping that the kids are having a wonderful time,” said Ty Fredriks, tournament director and a teacher at Orcutt Academy High School. “A lot of the young people are excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). They’re programming. They’re using math. They’re doing engineering challenges with their project.

“There’s a lot of smiles, enthusiastic costumes, cheers and everything else. It’s going real well.”

Sporting bright shirts, a team from Ellwood School in Goleta honed their robot’s skills in the pit area before putting it through the paces for competition.

Ellwood School robotics team members Daphne Maskrey and Vinesh Manian test out the Goleta school’s robot at the FIRST Lego League tournament. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
Ellwood School robotics team members Daphne Maskrey and Vinesh Manian test out the Goleta school’s robot at the FIRST Lego League tournament. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Daphne Maskrey is in her first year in the program, and said she hesitated joining due to concerns it would be complicated. She found out it’s not so complicated.

“I learned about teamwork,” the sixth-grader said. “A team of nearly all boys is hard to deal with, but I kind of learned how to deal with it.”

She said she enjoys programming the robot. While sports is about an athlete’s performance, robotics requires getting to the root of the problem if the robot goes astray, she added.

“It’s cool to see it do well on its own,” she said. “It does that because you did it.”

In addition to the robotics competition, the tournament had two other aspects. One focused on a project that required coming up with a engineering problem and solution displayed in a special presentation.

Teams also were judged on the core values, including how they helped each other — or what Fredriks called “gracious professionalism.”

“It’s one of the things that motivated me to keep this going,” he said. “We try to encourage cooperative behavior.”

But the lessons weren’t just for competitors. High schoolers from the Sparkatroniks at Orcutt Academy High School served as volunteers for various aspects of the tournament.

Jordyn English, an Orcutt Academy High School sophomore, acted as volunteer coordinator, lining up judges and others. Collin Lewis oversaw the “pit area,” ensuring each team had space to set up and supplies needed.

“It’s going real smoothly,” English added. “I think everyone came together to help out and make this a good experience for the kids.”

The teens’ participation wasn’t just a one-day activity. They also mentor younger robotics students throughout the year, student director Kate Douglass added.

“I think it’s important for high school students to get involved in more than academic life,” she said. 

Their involvement also teaches them skills needed for adult life, the students pointed out.

“I think it kind of prepares us for the future,” Douglass said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

The robotics team from Alice Shaw Elementary School in Orcutt competes at the FIRST Lego League regional tournament Saturday at Lakeview Junior High in Orcutt. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
The robotics team from Alice Shaw Elementary School in Orcutt competes at the FIRST Lego League regional tournament Saturday at Lakeview Junior High in Orcutt. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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