WOODALL, Okla. — Ask members of the Luna Squad robotics team how they qualified for a state robotics meet, and they reply "we all work so well together."
The Woodall Middle School team placed first in a FIRST Lego League qualifying tournament, held Nov. 16 at Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School. They advance to the state contest Dec. 14 at Tulsa Memorial High School. Another Woodall team, Kool Kats, placed second in the Core Values category.
Seventh-grader Maddison Hamby said the Luna Squad worked as a team.
"And we really understood everybody's differences," Maddison said. "Everybody has a different hobby and a way of thinking. It's figuring out how everybody works, working toward our strengths to get everything done."
Middle School science teacher Megan Helm said said working together is a main goal for the competition.
"The biggest thing is not the robotics itself, but the fact they have to work together as a team, collaborate, brainstorm," Helm said.
Teammate McKenna Hood said team members designed and assembled the robot from scratch, using specially-made Lego blocks.
Helm said teams "start the season with two buckets of Lego pieces and parts."
"They have to have the motors connect with the pieces and have the pieces move the way they want them to," Helm said.
Teammate Sophie Daugherty said building the robot was a challenge.
"We had to make sure our robot coordinates with the missions that we have to do, and that we're making the right instructions for the right missions."
Maddison said the most challenging part of the work has been learning how to program the robot, which has two motors connected to a "brain."
McKenna said two motors in back powers the wheels. A motor powers arms that move up, down, out and in.
The robot is programmed to go along a track and do various missions, including lifting blocks, building a tower, matching a colored block with a colored circle. An arm reaches out to knock a swing, another one of the robot's missions.
Helm said the FRC 4005 Hostile Gato robotics team from Fort Gibson High School mentored the middle school students.
Another challenge was coming up with a team name and costume.
"We were all trying to figure out what to do with our team, because you dress up and be nerdy," McKenna said.
Seventh-grader Faith Carlson said, "We all pretty much decided we wanted to be aliens and from there, we figured out a cool name."
McKenna said team members also had to learn "when to chill out."
"We were working so hard on this, trying to figure out when to take a break or a breather, then looking at it with fresh eyes," she said.
The team's efforts go beyond robotics competition, however. Team members also are preparing presentations about how solar panels help reduce one's carbon footprint. Students will make a presentation to the Tahlequah City Council on Monday and the Woodall Board of Education later in December.
Helm said the presentation is 25 percent of the team's ultimate score in FIRST Lego. The score also includes robot design, robot games and Core Values, 25 percent each. Core Values are discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and fun.
Spaulding writes for Muskogee Phoenix, a CNHI News Service publication.