By Adam Silvernail
Every year in November, the Ellicottville Middle School Robotics Team goes to compete in the FIRST Lego League in Houghton, which was Nov. 16 this year. There, the team used a series of programs to run their robot they created through an obstacle course completing challenges. The robot and the course are made of Legos, and the robot is programmed using Lego Mindstorm EV3 Home Edition.
Each year, the competition is based around a theme. In previous years, it has been pollution, energy and recycling. This year, the theme is City Shapers — basically, a city design. In addition to the course, each team must make a project about the theme. It can be a poster, a skit or some other kind of activity as long as everybody participates in it. In their project, the teams have a problem and must detail how to solve said problem.
The obstacle course in question is a large mat with Lego creations on it. Each creation has at least one challenge that can be completed using it, each one giving different point totals out based on their difficulty.
Among the creations is one that must be completed by both of the teams competing at the same time, but if both teams do, they get a substantial amount of points. The robot completes these challenges using programs completed before the competition and different attachments the teams can swap between runs when the robot returns to the starting area.
Ellicottville has three teams, and they’re all technically competing against each other. Team Fuzzy Logic, coached by Chris and Jamie Edwards, is made up of the members Ben Edwards, Kyle Robinson, Toby Coburn, Jayce Pearl, Sophia Sundeen and Liam McGuire.
Team Disco Bricks, coached by student captains Madison Kilby and Abaigeal Donaghue, is made up of Sam Edwards, Christopher Edwards, Aiden Harrison, William Benatovich, Gabby Spross and Aaron Laguidice.
Team Tech No Logic, coached by Blair Wood, is made up of Tyler Prichard, Maddox Johnson, Christopher Poliho, Gracie Vassar, Kara White and Courtney Marsh.
I asked each team a few questions about themselves. My first question was ‘How confident are you in your robot and programs?’
Abaigeal, coach of Team Disco Bricks, responded, “The programs we have done are very good and accurate.” They are still working on a few programs, so she’s still not completely confident, but the ones they do have are solid.
Sophia Sundeen, from Team Fuzzy Logic, answered, “We’re feeling pretty confident. Most of the time when we do our runs we get almost everything.” And indeed they were, since all of them were working on their project. As far as I knew, nobody on the team even touched their robot that day.
Blair Wood, the coach of Team Tech No Logic, said, “I think my team has a very good robot and programs this year.” I can vouch for their robot at least. It was quite impressive and complex.
My second question was ‘Are there any areas you feel your team needs to improve in?’
Abaigeal replied, “We need to work on our focus and staying on task.” This is also true from what I saw. However, middle school students were never known for their attention span, so maybe if she removes other distractions — phones, the soccer ball, etc. — that problem will be solved.
Sophia replied, “Not really. We have pretty much everything down. Maybe have everyone working together to get the next run ready (in the competition).” This is excellent news, as now they can work on refinements to their programs, project, or getting everyone working together to get the next run ready without worrying about something much more urgent.
Mr. Wood answered, “Our project could use some work. We hope to have it finalized before the competition.” From what I saw, their project was almost complete, so that shouldn’t be too big of an issue for them.
My final question was ‘Is there anything you’re proud of?’ Abaigeal said, “I’m proud of the way they are all able to work together and they’re all able to work well under pressure.” That’s a valuable quality to have, and will serve them well during the competition.
Sophia responded, “We’re very proud of our programs because they’re very easy but they’re complex and accurate. Our attachments are also very efficient (most of the time).” In this competition, accuracy and efficiency are necessary to secure victory.
Mr. Wood said, “I’ve been thrilled with this team. They’ve been great to work with, and they’re very enthusiastic and driven.” A good team chemistry is crucial, and a team with enthusiasm and drive stand a good chance of winning, in my experience.
Honestly, all of these teams stand a good chance of reaching the top five. Any team that scores within the top three gets to move on to Rochester for the state competition. However, regardless of the outcome, I’m positive that each team is going to have a great time in Houghton.