After passing a regional qualifier, a Clarksville-based student robotics team will compete against 71 teams from across the state at the Maryland FIRST LEGO League Championship this Saturday.
FIRST LEGO League is a national program that challenges students between the ages of 9 and 14 to design, build, program and test a fully autonomous robot using LEGO technology.
As part of the competition, the Clarksville Diamond Tooth-ED Tigers, which is made up of students from various Howard County schools, not only have to design a robot — they also have to come up with an innovative idea for reducing trash; the theme of this year's First Lego League challenge is "Trash Trek."
The Tigers designed an app that rewards users for reducing trash, which they will present at the competition.
The part of the competition that most kids find the coolest, team captain Arjun Kanjarpane said, is the robot.
Arjun is in the seventh grade at Clarksville Middle School. He said that he and his father, Devesh Kanjarpane, who is one of the team's coaches, formed the Tigers team in 2012 because his school didn't have a robotics team.
The team quickly grew from four members in its first year to more than a dozen members in the current year, who teach each other about everything from programming to tweaking to operating robots.
For this year's competition the Tigers' lead programmers, Havish Netla and Aarnav Grover, both sixth-graders at Mount View Middle School, had to design a robot that could demolish LEGO walls, put LEGO trash into dumpsters and more, all on a rug-sized board supplied by the League.
The objective of the competition is to have the robot complete as many challenges on the board as possible, within five minutes.
What is more important than the competition, Kanjarpane said, is the outreach that the team does. The "ED" in the team name stands for education, he explained.
Members of the team have demonstrated and taught robotics to students at Lockerman Bundy Elementary School in Baltimore City and at Gorman Crossing Elementary School in Laurel.
In upcoming weeks they will be teaching students at a STEM festival and some of their own schools as well, and they're looking forward to it.
"That's the best part about this," Aarnav said.
The Maryland FIRST LEGO League Championship will be held this Saturday, March 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. The event is open to the public and free to attend.