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Students learn, serve, excel in robotics competition
What do you get when you combine science, community service and friendly competition? You get tons of fun, lots of learning and a definite sense of accomplishment, according to students, teachers and parent volunteers who participated in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Robotics program this fall.

The FLL program is designed to get children between the ages of 9 and 14 excited about science and technology – and teach them valuable employment and life skills. It was founded by Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway Human Transporter, and requires students to use a LEGO system called Mindstorms NXT to learn how to build and program a robot that can perform autonomous tasks. Students also have to complete and present a research project on a problem and solution in their community.

More than 100 students from three Cherry Creek elementary schools (Indian Ridge, Red Hawk Ridge and Timberline) and six middle schools (Campus, Challenge, Falcon Creek, Thunder Ridge, Sky Vista and West) participated in the FLL program this fall. Greenwood Elementary participated in the Jr. FLL program.

Students formed “crews” or teams to tackle the 2013 FLL challenge called “Nature’s Fury.” They explored storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters to try and help people prepare for, stay safe during, and rebuild after such events.

For example, the Timberline NXT Brains tackled the problem of keeping your home safe during a forest fire, like Black Forest encountered last summer. They designed a sprinkler system to protect not only your house but also your yard. The students interviewed and shared their ideas with the Cunningham Fire Department, the Black Forest Fire Department and the American Red Cross. The Timberline Robotic Boyz were concerned for pet safety during tornadoes, so they developed a crate to keep pets safe and address their needs during that type of natural disaster. The team packed a lot of learning into their season, also going on field trips to NOAA in Boulder and visiting with 9News meteorologist Marty Coniglio.

The crews then competed in local Qualifier Tournaments for the chance to move on to the State Championships, which were held Dec. 14 at Overland High School. Congratulations to the following crews, which won state awards:
•    Sizzling Serama, Challenge School: 1st place Research Award
•    Lego Elements, Challenge School: 2nd place Robot Performance
•    Polka Dot Afros, Thunder Ridge Middle School: 1st place Gracious Professionalism Award

The Polka Dot Afros made the FLL Core Value of Gracious Professionalism personal by defining: "If you are a Gracious Professional, then you go out into the world to help others caringly. Gracious Professionals use their skills and knowledge to make their community better, like cheering up the sad and lonely, providing toys for kids who have nothing, or teaching people new things."

In that spirit, the students worked with Volunteers of America to collect and donate over 9,000 Legos to underprivileged children; volunteered at a Head Start preschool that received some of those Legos; taught programming at a Denver Public Schools summer school for underprivileged students; shared their robots and research with Chinese and Korean senior citizens; and mentored Timberline Elementary FLL crews.

Posted January 3, 2014.
Posted 1/3/2014 1:57 PM
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