Enter the Lego-Bots

The FLL teams robot on the practice field with Kirk Cieszkiewicz and Mr. DeSilva, photo by Max Wienke

The First Lego League (FLL) team, assisted by Skunkworks Robotics students, is working through their build season leading up to their competitions.[a]

The unique robotic challenge for the team this year relates to foods seen in everyday life because this year’s theme is the Food Factor.  So each team will have a project focused on solving a problem the food industry faces, as well as making a robot that can traverse an obstacle course representing different steps types of food go through before reaching the dinner table.

“The food project was excellent this year,” an AHS student mentoring the students, Grace Cieszkiewicz said, “especially given the fact that it helped the kids in FLL to think about solving real world problems at length just as an engineer would.”

Team members are invited to look around to see the sources of everyday foods.  Each member made a journal recording the types of food they consume.  This concerned the Ground, Harvest, Processing, Distribution, Preparation, and the Table for each meal.  They are asked questions like: What type of food is it? How does it get to my table? What are the environments it has been exposed to?  These questions lead the students to work on a study making them more aware of their environment, the processes foods go through, and the effect the food eventually has on their health.

Once they become aware of the food they eat, they are asked to pick an issue currently plaguing the food industries.  In this case the group picked a dangerous strand of E. coli.

“They are looking at the precess that beef undergoes from the farm to the grocery store,” said an Aviation High School (AHS) student Paula Cieszkiewicz, “basically just to understand the possible ways for E. coli to spread.”

Following research into the issue the students work together to form a solution to the problem.  

The project concludes with the team forming a presentation that will be given to a panel of judges at a tournament.  They will be asked to include the food they chose and how it would get to a dinner table, information on the work of a professional in their area of choice, and the research they did and information sources.  The team is also required to make their presentation in 5 or less minutes.

The primary competition is the teams’ construction and programming of their robot.  The team chose to use two drive wheels with a tricycle propulsion system as it proved more effective for making accurate turns.  Several manipulating arms were constructed that can be switched out between the competition stages.  Several levers had to be manipulated to drop contents into a carrying container on the robot, as well as a claw that could pick up and move several items.  After the robot’s construction several of the team members work with their programing system to construct all of the robots actions on the playing field.

Paula Cieszkiewicz explained that the team has been working very hard because they have their competition coming up very soon.  To finish in time the team has split their work into working on two separate robots, this allows their programing team to work twice as fast.  Being broken into two groups they are able to program two of the robots tasks at the same time.

The team was provided with a diagram and list describing everything necessary to create a field of play for their robot to work on.  It includes several items the robot is to pick up, move, and navigate around.

The robot game reflects the Food Factor theme of the year.  There are 15 missions with varying values of points their robot will need to fulfill.  Each mission reenacts a step that a variety of foods go through before they reach the dinner table.

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Winter Season All Fired Up

AHS Junior DeAundre Cola making a dash for the end zone, courtesy of DeAundre Cola

Although the weather outside is cooling down, with winds and the possibility of snow, Aviation High School athletes are strengthening their efforts, and getting pumped up for the upcoming sports season. The players are lifting weights, dieting, and practicing to prepare for the season and do better this year versus last year.

 This undying love for their sport, forces athletes at our school to go to extreme measures to continue their participation in it. Without a PE class, students at AHS need to find another way to do sports. Some students go to other schools and play for their teams, including basketball, football, swimming, wrestling, and many others.

“Currently I am enrolled in Wrestling,” said AHS Junior, Ashley Snyder. “This will be my third year participating in wrestling.”

Playing a sport, for some people, is not just for fun, it is for improving strength, agility, and skills. “I have improved a lot throughout the years. In basketball, I have worked out a lot outside of school in a gym. Lifting weights and working on my handling and jump shots,” said AHS Junior, who plays for Lindbergh High School, DeAundre Cola, “These workouts have really helped me improve my game.”

Staying fit and healthy before the season is a major part about playing sports. It is important to work out, stay hydrated, and eat healthy.

“Basically, I go to a gym, lift weights, and work on my game in the basketball court. Other players do the same. They lift weights and work on their game too,” said Cola, “I also try to eat healthier foods. After practice my mom would go and get me salad. I also eat a lot of pasta and fruits. Also I drink a lot of fluids such as Gatorade or water.”

Not only does someone improve themselves, but the teams have obstacles they overcome and improve on. “My team has had to roll with the punches over the past two years. Freshman year our coaching staff was put together the last three days before the season. We were given a young coach who had little to no time to prepare and he still made it work. Our team stayed for long practices and really became focused,” said Snyder, “Sophomore year we were again in distress. Finding out none of our coaches would be working with us and we would become joined with our rival team was terrifying. However, our teams figured out how to work together. We stayed strong and still sent multiple people to state.”

Sometimes, it is how they were brought up that influences their decision on which sports to play.

“I grew up as a tomboy; going dirt biking almost every weekend. I remember the day I walked into my friends house and he was watching Pro Wrestling.  I turned to him and said that looks like it would be fun,” said Snyder, “I’ve always been the type of person who sees what they want and goes to get it.  Since that day, I have been driven to participate in wrestling just because it looked like a challenge.”

Adjusting to a sport that someone is not used to or their sex is not dominant in is not always easy. They have to accept what they enjoy, whether or not the people around them accept them.

“My first year on Tyee’s wrestling team I was the only girl in a male dominated sport.  At first this was terrifying but soon the team became my family of brothers.  With the help of my awesome coaches I made it Regionals at one of the hardest weight classes in the womens division.  For a Freshman who had never been involved in such an intense sport, I feel truly privileged to have made it that far,” said Snyder, “My second year Tyee and Evergreen High Schools joined wrestling teams.  All of a sudden there were 50 kids where there use to be 10.  With the change, I learned how to get out of my comfort zone and work with new techniques.  The changes did not stop there unfortunately, my Sophomore year I battled many injuries through my season, I still managed my way to Regionals.”

Motivation can also come from the people around them, such as friends and family. Even starting as a young kid can have a huge influence how dedicated they are on that sport throughout their life.  

“I have been playing basketball since the age of five, and I have been playing football since the age of nine,” said Cola, “My motivation to do [football and basketball] comes from my parents and family, and soon I hope to get a scholarship in any of these sports.”

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