Southeast students match minds in Robot Jamboree

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cheerleaders lined the sidelines, screaming parents filled the seats and striped-shirted referees stood with whistles at the ready in one of the most combative sporting events of the year Saturday at Centennial Hall.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

"It is like sports for the mind," Noa Post of Auke Bay Elementary School said as he and his Elite Legos teammates defeated Harbor View Elementary's Lochness Monkeys in a match during the Fourth Annual Juneau Robot Jamboree. "This is my first year. I like doing the programming. It's exciting because... that I don't' really know, it just is."

Twenty-two teams representing all seven Juneau elementary schools and both middle schools along with two girl scout and two community teams and teams from Haines, Ketchikan and Skagway, ranging from ages 9-14, competed.

The teams have been studying science, technology and health care since September for this year's FIRST Lego League event. The FLL was created in 1989 to get kids excited about science and technology.

The teams had to build a robot using Lego Mindstorms technology and program it to score points in a 2 1/2-minute match. They also chose a problem that today's scientists and engineers are trying to solve and develop an innovative solution for, either by creating something or building on something that already exists. This year's theme was "Body Forward: Engineering Meets Medicine" and challenged teams to find innovative solutions to problems related to bioengineering and health care in the state.

Teams looked to find innovative ways to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions, and maximize the body's potential with the intended purpose of leading happier and healthier lives.

Skagway's Winter Weezers won the overall competition and were awarded travel to the Jan. 15 state competition in Anchorage. Any team can travel at their own expense.

"We are one of two teams that were selected to show our project," Skagway team Winter Weezer's Rosalie Westfall said. "It is a mask for asthmatics, a stylish mask that has function as well as 'look-a-ability."

Westfall and teammate Denver Evans both have asthma.

"Our robot has been spazy today though," Westfall said. "The lighting affected our color sensors so we had to tweak the mission a bit. And we were lucky to get here, the ferry canceled and we had to fly."

Second overall were Hoonah's Ferocious Lego Lovers.

"This makes being smart popular," Hoonah's Jordan McLuckie said. "The programming and the building are fun."

In Robot Performance, Juneau community team Faster Than The Speed Of Legos was first, Haines GangGreen and Skagway's Winter Weezers tied for second. In Robot Design and Programing, Riverbend Elementary's Technical Difficulties was first, Faster Than The speed of Legos was second. In Teamwork, Auke Bay Elementary's Body Works took first, Floyd Dryden's The Dryden Droids second. Mendenhall River Community School's Lego L'Eagles won the Project category with Juneau Girl Scout team 7ups second.

Ketchikan's KCS Bots competed for the first time and won the Rising Star Award for performing at a high level. Haines' GangGreen won the Against All Odds Award due to overcoming obstacles such as missing major computer components, fund raising efforts, and having their ferry transportation canceled. Hoonah's Ben McLuckie was awarded coach of the year and Juneau's Lecia Kahklen volunteer of the year.

"This is about celebrating and making it exciting and encouraging for kids to engage in science and mathematics," Juneau Economic Development Council executive director Brian Holst said. "Plus they love it."

The JEDC coordinates the event via its SpringBoard/STEM program and is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, BP, the National Defense Education Program, as well as individual contributors. More than 50 volunteers aided in the Saturday event.

"It is fun to win," Glacier Valley Elementary's Robotic Bears mission leader Jacob Hinckle said. "And if we don't, it is still fun because I like computers and science and stuff like getting my bionic eyes to move just right."

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at

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