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Education notebook: C.A.T.S. Lego team takes first place for innovation in Lego international competition

Rachel BakerMay 23, 2019

The local Lego robotics team C.A.T.S. won the Robot Design Strategy and Innovation award at the FIRST Lego League International Open the weekend of May 17 in Carlsbad, California.

The team members Cole Bonawitz, Alice Rudders, Thomas Glavin and Sasha Sharman are former schoolmates whose teamwork, problem-solving skills and creativity were on full display at the international competition.

After experiencing issues with their robots adjusting to the competition table surfaces at the state competition, the team was prepared with various modifications that made their robots more adaptable for potential variations on the tables at the international competition. Any slight variation in the table’s surface textures or mat widths can disrupt the performance of the robot.

“The challenge is designing your robot and your programming to minimize the effects of going from one table to the next,” Lisa Glavin said.

This is where the team’s first place victory for design strategy and innovation came into play. The newest addition to the robot was an upward-facing color sensor which allowed the robot to see which attachment it was putting on and queue the corresponding program.

“The judges thought that was very innovative,” she said.

Design strategy and innovation is judged by how sturdy the attachments are, how easy they are to repair and the overall economy of each piece. However it’s not just parts that get evaluated, but programming is scrutinized, too.

“They have to show the judges the printed out versions of their code and all the different aspects of the code are labeled as to what they do,” Glavin said.

The students must then explain to the judges the purpose of each code element in the programming.

The teams are also evaluated on their teamwork and cooperation. One part of the judging involves giving each team an “impossible task.” None of the teams knows what the task will be and they must solve it in three minutes. The team trained all year with example tasks in preparation.

“What the judges are watching is not what the outcome of what they do is, but how well they work together,” she said.

“We have four kids that are trying to decide how to do all of this, and they have different ideas on how to do it. Then they have to work together and work through conflicts and figure out who’s going to do what.”

The contest not only served as an arena for students to demonstrate their ideas and hard work, but to also share a larger multicultural experience.

“The kids got to be around a lot of kids from other countries which was a great experience,” Glavin said.

There were 68 groups in the competition including teams from India, Australia, Korea, Japan and Zimbabwe, each with different designs.

What’s next for the C.A.T.S.?

“Thomas and Sasha are already planning on figuring out how to make the robot do all the missions all in one run on our table,” Glavin said.

Thomas, Sasha and Alice will also continue volunteer work for Mobius, helping lead STEM programs and coach others about robotics.

“This is a team that loves to build,” Glavin said.

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