For months now, 19 teams of Maui, Moloka‘i, and Lana‘i kids ages 9 to 14 have been working on finding solutions for real-life engineering problems while simultaneously building robots for the 2nd Annual Maui FLL Tournament, which was held on Saturday, Nov. 14, at Seabury Hall.
Each year, the international robotics tournament has a different theme; this year’s was “Smart Move.” The children were asked to transform the way we look at transportation—to identify a problem in the community and to create a solution. Each of the 19 teams also created a robot made up of LEGO parts with a computer in the middle. Under the guidance of their coaches, the children design and program their robots to achieve missions on a robotics course for the robotics matches—a highly anticipated portion of the tournament.
Several key players deserve credit for bringing the event to fruition on Maui this year. Seabury Hall Computer Teacher Roberta Hodara, coach of the Seabury Hall Spartanbots team, was the impetus behind hosting the event at the school. Joining Hodara’s efforts, Seabury Hall Librarian Linda Lindsay and retired Middle School Director Lehn Huff worked to coordinate the event. With the help of state coordinators Sara Tamayose and Blaine Kashiwaeda, along with some 75 Maui County volunteers, the tournament proved to be a great success.
Students solve engineering problems through Seabury Hall’s annual robotics competition.
In addition to Seabury Hall and the FLL, generous sponsorship came from Women in Technology, Ke Alahele Education Fund, Maui Electric Company and the Robotics Organizing Committee.
“Without them, this could not have happened,” said Seabury Hall Headmaster Joseph Schmidt.
The children, of course, were the brightest stars at the event, and, demographically, all walks of Maui County’s keiki were present.
“These teams not only represent a balance of gender,” Huff explained, “but they represent our public schools, our independent schools, our charter schools and our 4H clubs. It’s awesome!”
And thanks to the FLL’s core values—teamwork and the spirit of friendly competition—the children all displayed impressive professionalism at the event.
“I [am] quite taken by the values that this tournament stands for,” said Schmidt. “This is what learning and competition should truly be about.”
Ultimately, however, it is a competition, and at the end of the day, scoring comes into play. But the focus on teamwork is so strong that it comprises one quarter of the team’s overall score. Another quarter is based on the team’s research project, while the technicality of the robot design counts for another.
The final quarter comes from the team’s robot match score. Each team participates in three 2.5-minute rounds; only the team’s highest score counts.
“The rubrics are very well-thought-out,” explained Hodara. “It’s a very humanistic judging process.” (A good rubric describes levels of quality for each of the criteria, usually on a point scale.)
From Maui, six teams will move on to O‘ahu for the state competition, where 60 teams will compete. The competition then goes nationally, and eventually, the international “World Festival” is held in April 2010.
This year, the teams that qualified to advance to the state contest are the Emmanuel Lutheran Rambots, Sapphires 4-H Club, Moloka‘i 21st Century NXT Navigators, Team Havoc, Seabury Hall Spartanbots and Lana‘i Torch ‘Em. The two alternate teams are Kaunakakai Elementary NXT Navigators and Groovy Girlz 4-H Club. Additional awards were presented to Kamali‘i Elementary for “Teamwork,” the Seabury Spartanbots for “Robot Design,” the Moloka‘i 21st Century NXT Navigators for “Project Design” and the Emmanuel Lutheran Rambots for Robot Performance.
FLL enthusiasts are hoping for an even larger turnout for the tournament next year, when the theme will be “Body Forward.”
“Next year, [you’ll be] looking at solving problems that deal with biomedical issues,” Tamayose explained to children at the adjournment of Saturday’s tournament. “So start looking around in your community… for something that concerns you.”
Keiki interested in joining or starting a team can visit www.usfirst.org and click on “FLL” for further details.