It’s Dec. 11 at the offices of TRK Management in Los Alamos and the Radioactive Fireflies are hard at work on their robots. The Fireflies are a group of 10 Girl Scouts, aged 9-12 who came together to form a FIRST LEGO League team. Their challenge is to design, build, test and program robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology. The robots complete tasks on a thematic playing surface.
The Fireflies will travel to Santa Fe Saturday for a scrimmage session with other teams and will compete in a state competition Feb. 1 in Albuquerque. FIRST robotics competitions are divided by age into three different contests. The Fireflies are competing against others aged 9-14. There are several other Los Alamos teams in their category.
The theme for this year’s competition is Nature’s Fury and the Fireflies’ project is on dealing with the after-effects of a tsunami. The Fireflies have designed chosen several of the challenges outlined in by the competition, including an obstacle course to include on the thematic playing surface designed to portray a town coping with a tsunami.
“The robot competition is only one of the parts of the challenge,” Fireflies coach Karen Doebling said. “The girls will also be judged on a core values presentation, team spirit and team identity.” The judges will also interview each team member.”
Each team will present a project on a natural disaster, offering solutions in a poster board presentation.
Doebling and fellow coach Eric Schmierer are both engineers. Schmierer has two daughters in the Fireflies. Doebling coached some of the girls last year, and although her daughter is not participating this year, she wanted to continue coaching. Another parent is helping with the computer programing aspects of the project, Doebling said.
“There are three teams building robots here at TRK,” Doebling said. “Roger [Waterman] has generously allowed the teams to use the space. When we were at the Middle School, we had to dismantle everything after each session. Now we can leave it all in place.”
Aria Schmierer, left, Natalie Aulwes, center, and Eden Schmierer watch a robot take a spill. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com