SANFORD — “It feels awesome,” said Jonah Elliott, as he and his SanLee Middle School teammates held up their Champion’s Cup and Best Overall Award plaque.
The SanLee Stallionss robot building team had just won the Central Carolina Community College Robotics Competition, held Nov. 20 at the college’s Lee County Campus.
Teams from SanLee and West Lee Middle School, in Sanford, and Anne Chestnutt Middle School, in Fayetteville, had spent months in study and hands-on learning for this competition. All are preparing for the upcoming FIRST Lego League Tournament.
FIRST (Foundation for the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international nonprofit organization that works with the Lego Corporation on robotics competitions to interest young people in math, science and technology.
The local Robotics Competition, co-sponsored by the college, Communities in Schools of Lee County, and Lee County Schools, was a scrimmage, an opportunity for the local teams to compete with their robots before the FLL tournament.
“The competition encourages students to continue with their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies,” said Virginia Brown, competition coordinator and CCCC vocational/technical liaison. “The college is a high tech resource center for our communities. The Robotics Competition is another of our community STEM-related programs for young people, like our weekend workshops and summer camps.”
For the 2010 scrimmage and FLL Tournament “Body Forward Challenge,” teams of students explored the world of biomedical engineering and built and programmed Lego Mindstorms robots to carry out simulations of biomedical procedures. This included programming the robots to carry out tasks such as inserting a “stent” in a plastic “artery”; placing a Lego “patch” on a “heart”; repairing a broken plastic “bone” with a Lego “cast”; and placing a Lego “pacemaker” into a “heart.”
Preparation for the scrimmage and the FLL Tournament was a voluntary, after-school activity by the teachers/coaches and the students. They spent several months researching biomedical challenges, preparing a presentation, building and programming the robots, and practicing the tasks with them.
“I want my students to have fun learning,” said SanLee science teacher Shannon Willaert. “They loved doing this. The engineering concepts were there, and they also made friends, learned problem-solving skills, learned teamwork, and found out that there are many ways to solve problems.”
The West Lee Pride team cheered when it was announced that they won the Best Design Award for their robot. Coach Shawnteya Hayes, who teaches STEM, said her students have been involved with the extra-curricular activity since September.
“It was fun,” said Joseph Wilkins, of the West Lee team. “We got to do all sorts of fun stuff.”
The Chestnutt School Fire Starz team received the Best Teamwork plaque and the school’s Allstar Hornets received the Best Presentation plaque.
Don Hon, principal test engineer for EMC Corporation, was the lead judge. He has been involved with the competition since it started in 2007.
“The Robotics Competition teaches kids how their math and science apply to everyday things they possess, like Legos,” he said. “It motivates them to use the knowledge they gain for other things than building blocks. It’s a great activity.”
Other judges for the competition were: John Dills, manager of Operations for Progress Energy; Tony Reece, Instrumentation and Control technician for Progress Energy; Ray Dawson, Senior Training Professional for Pfizer; and Laurie Lympany, engineering technologies recruiter for CCCC.
Jonah Elliott didn’t just have a great time preparing for and taking part in the competition. It fit in with his future career goal to be an engineer — maybe even a Lego designer. Someday, one of his designs might be part of a FIRST Lego Tournament.
Steve Lympany, chairman of CCCC’s Engineering Technology Department, smiled when he heard that.
“This competition is great,” he said. “The kids are seeing what science and technology are all about. I get a kick out of their creativity. Somewhere in here are our future engineers.”
For more information about Central Carolina’s electronics engineering technology degree and electronics technology certificate programs, visit the college’s web site, www.cccc.edu
, or call (919) 718-7331. For more about FIRST Lego League, visit www.firstLegoleague.org