Local Robotics Clubs Advancing To State Finals


Robotics teams from Wawasee Middle School and Washington STEM Academy are moving on to state competition.

Washington’s “Hornet Strikers” and WMS’s “Wawasee 8th” qualified for state competition after winning the top two spots Sunday at the third annual FIRST Lego® League tournament at Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center, Grace College, Winona Lake.
State competition will be at Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne Dec. 13.
Wawasee 8th earned the Champion Award Sunday to advance to state. The Champion Award recognizes a team that embodies the FLL experience, by fully embracing the core values while achieving excellence and innovation in both the Robot Game and Project, according to firstlegoleague.org Students on the team include Cory Dunivan, Nicholas Murphy, Ethan Hays, Clay and Joe Kelsheimer and Garrett Smith.
Besides advancing to state for being in the top two, Hornet Strikers also won the awards for Robot Design and Robot Performance. Team members include Dylan Barkey, Keller Bailey, Faith Delp, Alexis Terrazas, Michael Ray, Veronica Mason and Brooklyn Fitzgerald.
Though they don’t advance to state, the Swarming Hornets from Washington took home the Presentation Award. Students on the team included Parker Bonifield, Adam Deming, Cole Ryser, Ethan Spencer, Owen Stevens, Ian Wihebrink and Pierce Renbarger. The Presentation Award recognizes a team that effectively communicates the problem they have identified and their proposed solution to both the judges and other potential supporters, the website states.
Flying Hornets received the Core Values Award and team members included Ross Hutton, Isaac Roberts, Mackenzie Kohler, Jonah Brinkerhuff, Kassidy Dees, Joey Pau and Allison Zartman. This award is described by the website as an award that “celebrates a team that is empowered by their FLL experience and displays extraordinary enthusiasm and spirit.”
A total of 12 teams competed this year, down from 21 in 2013. Teams consisted of three from Wawasee Middle School, four from Whitko Middle School, one from Milford School and four from Washington STEM.
The annual event is sponsored by Grace College and 3M.
Dr. Kristin Farwell, Grace College assistant professor and program director of mathematics, organizes the FLL tournament at Grace College each year.
The theme for this year’s FLL tournament is “World Class Learning Unleashed,” focusing on education, Farwell said. 
The competition has two parts, a judging part and the robotics competition.
In the judging part, judges score teams on three different categories – core values, innovative solution and robot design.
During the robotics contest, teams have three tries to score as many points on the game board as possible in 2-1/2 minutes. A team’s top score from three runs is their final score, with the team with the most points winning the robotics competition portion of the FLL tournament.
Farwell noted the competition this year had 42 volunteers, and 40 volunteers built the kits the robotic obstacle course is ran on. The kits were donated by 3M.
“What’s fun about this is you get to see the kids’ excitement and that excitement transfers over to their learning. Learning is fun,” said Tom Ray, Washington principal, before the contest.
He said the students will apply the “soft skills” they acquire to their learning and that will stay with them forever. 
“Watch them work together and how excited they are,”Ray said. In the robotics competition, students create a situation for learning that can’t be found in a textbook, he said. 
Washington students spent the last six weeks preparing for the competition, he said, even taking their own time on weekends to get it done. 
Whitko Middle School STEM(science, technology, engineering and math) teacher Teresa Knepple said Whitko has participated in the Grace qualifying tournament all three years plus six years at Fort Wayne. “We started in 2004,” she said before the contest started.</div>

For this year’s contest, Knepple said students started working near the end of September through her STEM class. They met every day for 48 minutes.
She had 61 kids in her class, but students were given a choice between the robotics and a city management game. 
In 2013, she said a Whitko team missed going to state by one point. Whatever the end result of Sunday’s contest, she said every participating child was a winner.
Ryan Edgar, Wawasee Middle School robotics and engineering teacher, had one team in the contest in 2012, but that’s grown to three this year. His students have been working on their projects since the middle of September, a couple of days a week. During the last few weeks, he said they worked on them more often. The Wawasee teams are an after-school competition team.
In 2013, Edgar said Wawasee teams placed second, third and fifth, with the second- and third-place teams going on to state. 
“It’s a lot of new kids so I only have one team that went to state last year,” Edgar said before the competition. “Last year was a neat experience for us to go to state.”
He said teams at state were pretty amazing. 

During the tournament, Farwell also noted Grace College had one of its six 3-D printers on hand to demonstrate to the students. 

(Story By The Times Union)