By Audrey McMichael / Dreadbot Reporter
Three rookie teams from Dexter’s new FIRST Lego League (FLL) division have started their first competition season. Their qualifying matches were held at Milan High School on Saturday, Nov. 16. The students named their teams the Protons, the Redbots, and the Starbots.
Dexter adult volunteers, as well as current and graduated Dreadbot team members, have helped to establish these teams, and serve as coaches and mentors for the student team members.
This year is the first time that Dexter has been able to field robotics teams for all school-age students. The younger programs are based on the idea of getting kids interested in the fields of robotics and STEM. These programs also prepare them for the high school level (FRC) division.
All of Dexter’s FLL teams excitedly prepared their robots and made good use of the practice fields, generously shared by their sister teams in Chelsea. When asked what he was proud of, Dexter roboticist Elliot said: “I’m proud of our programming and our planning and I think it will pay off.”
The game for this year is called “City Shaper,” and its goal is to interact with objects on the field such that the robots can build a skyscraper, climb a bridge and raise flags. The FLL robots (which are made using LEGO components, motors and controllers) also score points for moving blocks into a marked black circle and for pushing a swing. Matches are 2 1/2 minutes in length, during which the teams intently attempt to accomplish as many tasks as possible. Drive team members also have the option to modify the robot during the match with interchangeable parts for different challenges.
Along with competing in the tournaments, FLL team members also work on a service project as a team. The Protons have been working with coaches Sierra, Qais and Sandy on getting support for an inclusive playground for people with disabilities. The students all worked together to make a poster for presentation to the judges.
Proton coach Sandy Zalmout is excited about the future of her team’s project stating “… their all-inclusive playground project will be presented to the City of Dexter Parks and Recreation Commission to see if any part of the project can be implemented.”
The Redbot team worked on a project about pollution in the Huron River. They cleaned up around the river and found all kinds of trash like tires and large pieces of plastic. The Starbots focused on the bleachers in the football stadium. They wanted to make more comfortable folding seats that are durable and weatherproof.
The students all had to memorize their part of the presentation and practice gracious professionalism to compete for this award.
Starting out in the first-ever competition match, the Protons encountered problems with programming on their robot. Their robot turned too early for them to get up the ramp they were aiming for. Undeterred, the team worked quickly with the coaches and fixed the program in time for the next match.
For the Starbot’s first match, they had a problem that caused their robot to drive backward, but it too was resolved quickly and the Protons ended up getting to second place at the end of that round. The Redbots got up to 5th place because of their ability to move the blocks into the circle and get on the ramp quickly. Every team played four matches, and Dexter’s three teams remained competitive throughout, all breaking their way into the top five brackets.
At the end of the day, the Redbots took second place overall, the Starbots and the Protons were in 4th and 5th place, respectively. The first three ranked teams from the Milan competition will proceed to the state finals, meaning the Robots are going in December, an amazingly strong finish for a rookie team. The students and coaches from all three teams were very proud of the work put in by the students.
Although only the Redbots from Dexter will be continuing their season in the FLL division, another Dexter team received a coveted award at their first competition. The first award announced during the closing ceremony was the judge’s award, and the team receiving it was the Protons. They won this prize because of their ability to talk to the judges and their good support to other teams, a concept known throughout the FIRST community as “Gracious Professionalism.”
In addition to their three FLL teams, Dexter also fielded rookie robotics teams in the younger FLL Jr. division, and in the older FTC (First Tech Challenge) division. We hope to report soon on the results of those competitions.
Congratulations to all of Dexter’s seven new robotics teams. DROID (Dexter’s new organization dedicated to promoting robotics), the Dreadbots (the High School Robotics team), and all of Dexter are proud of you!
MAIN PHOTO: The Protons’s Robot Making it up the Bridge. Photo by Dan Robelen