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Robotics competition draws enthusiasm

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The fourth annual Otero County First Lego League competition took place Saturday morning at New Mexico State University-Alamogordo Tays Center, sponsored by NMSU-A and OteroSTEM.

The First Lego League is a robotics program intended for 9 to 14 year olds and is designed to get children excited about science and technology.

Students from all over the county participated in the competition.

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The Alamogordo schools that participated were Yucca, Oregon, Buena Vista and North Elementary School. The four teams spent the last several weeks learning about robotics, mechanical design, introductory engineering and how to code and build their team’s robot.

North Elementary School Principal Sandra Johnson said this was their first year in the competition and the students learned by trial and error.

“Last year, we got the materials and played with them but we did not compete,” said Johnson. “We’re learning, this is going to be our biggest learning experience. It’s exciting to see their excitement, they want to do well and present the product that they have been working on, they want to show it off.”

Students used Lego Mindstorms to build robots. Lego Mindstorms is a series of kits that contain software and hardware to create customized, programmable robots.

The teams were judged on teamwork based the league’s core values, including honoring the spirit of friendly competition, professionalism, working with coaches and mentors, learning together and having fun.

Each team was timed 2.5 minutes in the robot game, during which the robots had to complete as many tasks possible, such as lifting and retrieving objects.

Erik Price, a fifth-grader at Yucca Elementary School and team member of the Titans, said the most fun part of the day was looking at the other team’s boards and spending time with his team mates.

“I basically helped with some of the programs that needed a site, I knew a precise location where we needed our robot to aim. I also helped with sports, for positioning the catapult,” said Price. “The competition teaches you how to be a good sport and how to work well together as a team.”

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Brody Kallman, a fifth-grader also from Yucca Elementary and Price’s team mate, said his favorite subject is science and that the First Lego League is a great program for any child interested in pursuing the fields of science and technology.

“I think building these robots will help the future for a better life and will help with natural disasters,” said Kallman. “If you’re interested in science and technology, I think this is the program that can be for that child.”

The local competition in Alamogordo prepares each team for the El Paso FLL championship tournament on Feb. 7 at the University of Texas at El Paso. Two teams from Otero County have competed in El Paso and earned spots at the national competition.

The Titans from Yucca Elementary were the overall tournament champions. They also won best robot design and were winners of the robot game. Oregon Elementary’s team, the Nerd Herd, won for best project. Every team received recognition for their achievements.

Other events at the competition included demonstrations by the high school robotics team and robot war games in which children battled bots with one another.

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©2015 the Alamogordo Daily News (Alamogordo, N.M.)

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