December 14, 2013

Natural disaster missions test Farmington students at annual Lego robotic championship

Farmington robotics team among more than 500 kids from all over Maine to compete in the Lego robotics championship Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

By Paul Koenig
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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ON COMMAND: The Bridgineer team’s robot, center, moves across the table on its way to completing a task at Maine’s FIRST® LEGO® League Championship at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday. The team is made up of Farmington middle school students.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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MEMENTOES: The trophies are made of LEGO at Maine’s FIRST® LEGO® League Championship at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Additional Photos Below

The other aspect of the competition is project based. The kids need to present an innovative solution to a problem that could arise in a natural disaster. Andrews said they tried to solve the problem of unsafe bridges in rural, isolated areas.

The team, inspired by two flooding disasters that damaged bridges in their area in 1987 and 2011, designed a bridge safety system that lowers gates to block vehicles from going across if a proximity, waterline or vibration sensor is triggered. In the more recent disaster in 2011, Tropical Storm Irene destroyed two bridges along Route 27 leading to Sugarloaf ski resort in Carrabassett Valley, temporarily stranding about 100 resort guests and employees.

Teams are required to keep their ideas grounded in real life. They’re judged partly on whether they considered the factors of implementation including costs and ease of manufacturing, and they’re encouraged to consult with experts in the fields as part of their research.

“It gives you a lot of opportunities to go into engineering later,” James Guillaume, a seventh grader at Mount Blue Middle School, said of the program. “It sets you up. And you have a lot of fun as a team.”

Andrews said it also teaches the kids that they can use what they’ve learned in school to solve life problems. “It’s not to pass a test. It’s what can I do to improve the world. And these kids get it,” she said.

The team almost didn’t compete, Andrews said. A teacher in the district and mother of two close friends of team members, Susan Phillips, died earlier this month of breast cancer, and a memorial for her was being held at the same time as the competition, Andrews said. Instead of forgoing the event, the team wore pink ribbons pinned to their shirts for Phillips.

“They’re kind of competing in her honor,” Andrews said.

Paul Koenig — 207-621-5663 Twitter: @paul_koenig

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Additional Photos

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COMPETITION: Teams cheer as their robots perform tasks on tables during Maine’s FIRST® LEGO® League Championship at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan


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