The 11th Annual Roar of the Robots, a FIRST Lego League (FLL) tournament, held at Carroll Community College in Westminster on Saturday, was a day full of color, creativity, science, and math, all done by students from throughout Carroll County.
Jason Anderson, chief academic, equity, and accountability officer for Carroll County Public Schools, said he believes having FIRST Robotics Teams helps assist students with social development through healthy collaborative team experiences, giving kids an opportunity to work together, and encouraging students to plan and prepare.
“I do think programs like the robotics team encourage kids to consider STEM careers and potential career and college pathways. It also provides many benefits when fostering perseverance and tenacity which are essential in life,” Anderson said.
The tournament was heavily attended as family and friends turned out to watch nearly 200 elementary and middle school students on 23 teams compete against each other and to watch robot demonstrations. This was one of more than 20 statewide qualifying tournaments hosted by the Maryland FLL Committee and this year’s theme was “City Shaper.” The attendees were able to watch the Lego Cities the FIRST Lego League Jr. (FLL Jr.) teams of kids ages 6 to 10, from kindergarten to third grade, showcased. The event started early in the morning with the practice rounds between the FIRST Lego League teams, students ages 9 to 16 from grades 4 to 8.
Robot Outlaws, from Cranberry Station Elementary, earned the FLL “Champions Award” and was one of five teams advancing to the state tournament in February at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. (See below for full results).
The tournament was planned by Partnership and Inspiration for Engineering Education and Entrepreneurship (PIE3) and the Robo-Lions FRC Team 2199 with the help of Carroll County Public Schools, Carroll Community College, and FIRST LEGO of Maryland, according to marketing volunteer Paula Scarfone. PIE3 is a non-profit with 20-plus affiliated robotics For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) teams in Carroll County and Howard County.
Scarfone explained that FIRST is an international youth organization nonprofit founded by Dean Kamen that inspires young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators. Scarfone emphasized that because of the work that they have done to create FIRST Robotics Teams in Carroll County, PIE3 has between 75 to 100 students involved in robotics teams in the area.
They have one FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team for kids in grades 9 to 12, two FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams for kids in grades 7 to 12, six FIRST Lego League (FLL) Teams, and five FIRST Lego League Jr. (FLL Jr.) Teams. In addition, she said CCPS has 20 FLL Teams at 11 schools, five FLL Jr. Teams at two schools, and five FTC Teams at three schools.
The FLL Teams were required to design a robot based on LEGO MIndstorms EV3 robots to accomplish specific tasks carried out on a 4-by-8-foot field. In addition, they were required to identify a problem with a building or public space in the community, design an innovative solution, and share the solution with others.
According to Rose Young, the lead mentor for Carroll County’s only FRC Team, Robo-Lions Team 2199, the director of PIE3, and also the tournament director for FLL qualifiers since 2010, nearly 100 volunteers and 23 teams for FLL, and about 40-50 for the FLL Jr. teams participated Saturday. According to Young, the winning teams were picked through a structured process with rules set by FIRST and administered locally by FIRST FLL Partner at UMBC with about 27 judges. The referees were in charge of overseeing the 36 matches, and the best attempt out of three was counted for each team.
“Roar of the Robots is the largest student robotics competition event for strictly local teams in Carroll County,” Young said. “Last year, the event hosted 12 FIRST LEGO League or FLL teams of about 100 students and this year’s Roar of the Robots had 23 FLL teams all from Carroll County. FLL inspires young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators and shows that STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — learning is fun.”
Chimwemwe Chinkuyu, 16, an 11th-grader at Liberty High School, is part of the Robo-Lions FRC Team 2199 and this year, since his team did not compete, he and his other teammates decided to become volunteers. Throughout the event, he was volunteering, mentoring and also showcasing the robot that he and his teammates created for the tournament.
This is Chinkuyu’s second year on the team and he said he started with Lego Robotics when he was in elementary school by typing codes and clicking blocks together. When he graduates high school, Chinkuyu said that he wants to go to college and study physics or engineering.
Kelly Vollmer was a volunteer at the event working with the FLL Jr. Expo on Saturday and this is her third year coaching one of the FLL teams, 2217. Her goal for this year’s tournament was to make this experience for the younger kids participating a great one so that they would want to come back next year.
Brandon Laun, Jane Woodworth, and Kate Vogg, all 8, are third-graders at Eldersburg Elementary School. The three of them are part of Team 11258 Alien Boom Force. They were part of the expo on Saturday and said they had a great time at the event. They all talked about how hard they worked since the beginning of the school year to create their “Lego City” and showcase it at the tournament. They received the Explore and Design Award at the FLL Jr. Ceremony.
Jane’s mother, Tracy Woodworth, said this is the second year her daughter participated in the tournament. She said her daughter is artistic and creative and is interested in science and math.
“It’s so important for them at a young age to be able to get exposed with experiences with more than just the typical mainstream; ‘I’m going to play a sport or I’m going to be in the drama club,’" she said. "This is an opportunity that didn’t exist when I was a kid to be able to do something formalized and structured around science and math and giving them an opportunity to meet other kids who are interested and to find out where their talents lie and where they can grow and what they may be interested in when they get a little older.”
Paul Potter, has been a coach for the past six years and also a volunteer judge since 2013. He said he became a coach after his daughter participated in one of the summer camps PIE3 sponsored in Eldersburg and she loved the experience. Potter encourages everyone in the community to become part of the program and become a mentor or a coach.
“In the beginning, I was very skeptical about whether I could be an effective coach because I am a pediatric physical therapist with absolutely no experience with robotics or computer programming/coding,” Potter said. “I quickly found that I could use my love of science, experience tinkering in the garage, and my experience of working with kids, to allow me to be an effective coach. You don’t need to be an engineer to be a coach!”
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact the organizers via email at RoarOfTheRobots@gmail.com and give your name, volunteer area of interest, and if you are looking for school service learning hours. To learn more or to make a donation, you may also visit the Roar of the Robots’s website, www.robo-lions.org.
Youth Mentor (sponsored by Carroll County Public Library): Katie Mattern of Team 46010 Oklahoma Road MS “Greenie Beanies”
Adult Mentor (sponsored by PIE3): Ivy Allgeier, Team 49274 - Ultrabotic Dream Machine Westminster Elementary School; Team 49275 - WES Tech Battle Bots Westminster Elementary School; Team 49887 - STERM Olympians19 Friendship Valley Elem School
Against All Odds (sponsored by PSI, Inc.): Team 46009 - Mt Airy Middle School Raptors, coached by Danielle Whitworth
Best Dressed (sponsored by Robo-Lions Alumni): Team 2122 - Worlds Wires (a community/PIE3 team)
Volunteer Award (sponsored by the Robo-Lions): Dwight Hendricksen of Carroll Community College, and the CCC Staff
Special Judge Award (sponsored by Strouse): Team 49887 - STERM Olympians19
Judges Awards: Team 2121 - Guardians of the Blox
Innovation Project Award: 1st: Team 22075 - Coding Force; 2nd: Team 49887 - STERM Olympians 19; 3rd: Team 2122 - World’s Wires
Global Innovation Award: Team 2216 - HAMSTATRONS
Robot Design Award: 1st: Team 2216 - HAMSTATRONS; 2nd: Team 46011 - Robo Masters; 3rd: Team 11718 - Team Impact
Core Values Award: 1st: Team 49274 - Ultrabotic Dream Machine; 2nd: Team 49889 - Furious Ninja; 3rd - Team 28378 - Cyber Wolves
Robot Performance: 1st: Team 2216 - HAMSTATRONS; 2nd: Team 2121 - Guardians of the Blox; 3rd: Team 2122 - Worlds Wire
Champions Award: Team 2555 - Robot Outlaws
These 5 teams advanced to the Maryland State Tournament, Feb. 23 at UMBC:
1 - Team 2555 - Robot Outlaws
2 - Team 2122 - Worlds Wire
3 - Team 2216 - HAMSTATRONS
4 - Team 46011 - Robo Masters
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5 - Team 22075 - Coding Force