Anamosa Middle School students are headed to state after their Lego League team finished in the top six at a recent competition.
The trip is the first to state in the program’s four-year history and the team said they’re very excited to move on to the next level of the competition, which is a level below the robotics competitions for high schoolers.
In working on their robot, the team has a list of items that need to be accomplished, whether that be working on the model, programming or research. The seven members of the team Lego Citizens, Ben Watson, Lyla Broghammer, Lillian Varvel, Diaz Beltran, Jacelyn Duncan, Wesley Meyer and Roman Yeager, are constantly floating through duties. They might work on programming for a few days and then switch to model work for a few after that.
Each student came to the team with varying levels of interest and experience. Some came from the district’s junior team, some enjoyed working on programming or research, while others looked forward to working with Legos.
During the competition, the team has to get a robot got complete certain tasks within the two-and-a-half-minute time limit. A particularly challenging portion, according to the team, was getting a swing to release on the course and ensuring the robot got started at the right place.
“It’s a fun way to introduce coding because you get instant feedback: does your robot do what you want it to do,” Coach Julie Rice said.
The accomplishment shows how far the team has come. Last year, Rice said the team focused on how the robot moved. This year, the team moved on to more complex to learn how to use the color sensor.
In addition to the work with the robot, the group also had to do a research project which had to look at something in the community that could be improved. The team looked into the lack of accessibility in the city’s parks. What they found were that some parks were not accessible to wheel chairs, due to grass or pebbles leading to the parks or ladders and steps on the play sets.
During their research, they contacted the Marion Parks and Recreation Department, as well an occupational therapist and the local special education teacher for advice. Some changes they came up with included adding fidget tables or sensory board, installing a fence and using surfaces like artificial turf or poured rubber.
To qualify for the state competition, the team was graded on all aspects, from the project, to the robot work, sportsmanship and how they worked as a team. When competing, Varvel said she enjoyed working with her teammates the most, while Diaz said he enjoyed seeing what the other teams came up with. The team members all remarked how kind and friendly all the other teams were in.
In preparation for the state competition, held Jan. 18 in Ames, the team said they’ve been working on getting their robot to handle its commands a little better and have upgraded the model for the step up in competition.