Inside a classroom at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School on a Friday evening, members of a Lego League robotics team are working with their robot, programming it to complete tasks.
The team, Baking Soda Volcano, won the Oklahoma championship for middle school students this year. Later this month, they will attend the First Lego League World Festival for four days in St. Louis.
Their robot is programmed using Bluetooth from a laptop. There is no remote control. Students must program the robot using software on a laptop that sends the task to the robot via Bluetooth.
“It’s all kind of like a cross between a robot contest and a science fair with a little bit of project management,” said Travis Smith, the team coach. “They are judged in three areas. The robot and how it is built. How it performs on the field, and also their project, which is called Nature’s Fury. That will be presented and judged. They are also judged on organization and how they treat other teams.”
All the robot’s tasks are geared around the aftermath of a severe storm. In one mission, the robot has to push debris out of the way. In another, it moves an ambulance.
“All of the missions are autonomous,” said team member Maddie Smith, 13, who is the coach’s daughter. “So, it has to be programmed. We have one where we have to move trucks and another where we have to push an ambulance. The programming is the part I enjoy the most.”
Travis Smith said the experience offers something for everyone. Not everyone involved is interested in being hands-on with the robot. Some write scripts for skits and other presentations the team will do during the time in St. Louis. And beyond all of that, it’s a lot of fun.
“It’s been nice to get to know some of the people on the team,” 13-year-old Izzy Barry said. “I write all the scripts and take care of that. We take our project, and I kind of make a story out of it.”
The festival will draw teams from 40 countries. St. Charles Borromeo’s elementary school team also will attend. Travis Smith said it will be an interesting and fun experience for all, win or lose.
“No matter what, this should be a great time,” he said. “They’re going to get a chance to mingle with people from other cultures, which will be really interesting for them.”