Five teams from Los Alamos competed at the New Mexico state FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Championship Saturday, Feb.1 in Albuquerque. Competing among 44 teams, the Los Alamos teams did well. Two Girl Scout teams won top prizes and may be asked to attend a post-season invitational tournament.
The Atomic Flying Pickles, competing in their fourth year, won the second place Champion’s Award. The Bloonatics won the third place Champion’s Award. A rookie team, The Atomic Phoenixes won the Presentation Award.
FLL is one of the robotics programs in FIRST, a program that encourages kids to get excited about science and technology. Teams compete in three areas: robotics using LEGO Mindstorms; a project presentation based on the year’s theme; and Core Values. In the robot games, the robots that the teams have designed and built have two and one-half minutes to score points on “missions” on a table of LEGO models.
All five teams from Los Alamos scored in the top 15 in the robot games, with the Bloonatics finishing sixth, the Exploding Crazy Orange Sodas finishing eighth, the Radioactive Fireflies finishing ninth, the Atomic Phoenixes finishing 10th and the Atomic Flying Pickles finishing 15th. Teams also met with judges to discuss their robot designs, and combined the robotics counts for a third of their score.
The other two parts of the competition were Core Values and Project.This year’s theme was “Nature’s Fury,” and teams chose natural disasters to investigate. Teams were tasked with finding a problem and suggesting a solution related to that theme. Several of the local teams chose wildfires because of the threats to our own community. As part of the competition, teams had five minutes to present their problem and solution to judges.
Core Values was also an integral part of the competition–after all, the program is about showing kids how fun science and technology is. Core Values emphasized teamwork, valuing each other’s contributions, helping other teams, doing the work with minimal assistance from coaches and having fun. The teams have a judging session on Core Values, which makes up another third of their overall score.
The Atomic Flying Pickles had a solid showing in the robot games, but wowed the officials in the judging rounds. Their project on wildfires centered on pairing campsites with a biodegradable powder that can be mixed with water to help to put out campfires more efficiently and more fully. The Bloonatics conceptualized a device that detects arcing if a power line is down and would signal authorities. These two teams were honored to be awarded Champion’s Awards, bestowed to “teams that embody the FLL experience, by fully embracing our Core Values while achieving excellence and innovation in both the Robot Game and Project.”