Real-life skills learned at Lego League championship

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AUGUSTA — Teams from Caribou, South Paris and Farmington took top honors at the 18th Annual Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League presents student teams, ages 9 to 14, with real-world problems to research and attempt to solve. Each team chooses a project, creates a poster and gives an oral presentation. 

Each team builds a Lego robot to complete theme-related tasks during tabletop matches.  

The theme this year was Hydro Dynamics. Participants learned how water is found, filtered, transported, used or disposed of.

In 2000, 10 teams from around the state competed in the inaugural FIRST Lego League competition in Maine. This year, 87 teams participated in one of the qualifying meets held in Jay, Limestone, Searsport and South Portland. Based on performances there, 60 teams were invited to compete in the state championship.

Tom Bickford, the state FIRST Lego League coordinator and director of Maine Robotics, said it can be a long day. Some teams have to travel hours to get there, put in a full day and then have another long ride home. The farthest-away teams have to stay overnight in order to compete.

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The Augusta Civic Center is the only facility large enough to hold the state championship.

“North and South events were once held, but with all the teams in one place the energy is through the roof,” Bickford said. “I wouldn’t want to not be here.”

League rules call for straight deliberations, with the judges determining the winners of the 30 awards. That adds another hour to the day, he said.

“I promise coaches their kids will leave here exhausted and exhilarated,” Bickford said. “The students can’t wait for next year.”

He estimated attendance was down by about 500 because of the stormy weather. All teams came, but there were fewer spectators.

Patty Veayo, coach of the rookie Mt. Blue Middle School team Robo Cougars of Farmington said, “I know the kids nailed the judging because they felt really good. I saw a lot of cooperation in the question-and-answer section.”

She said the team studied score sheets from the Western Maine Qualifier and worked hard to improve their presentation and poster.

“The students gained some great skills,” Veayo said.

Sheena Thomas, coach of Smart Fun Engineers, another Farmington team from the private school Smart Fun Adventures said, “We’re excited. The kids were confident and high-spirited when coming out of the judging. That’s nice to see. They’ve tweaked their robot, ‘Colossus,’ to get repeat-ability of his maneuvers.”

Rob Taylor, coach for the four teams from Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay said his teams had a really good day.

“From the qualifier to now, they’ve basically had two weeks to prepare,” he said. “They all improved their match scores. The kids did a nice job to keep up the effort.”

Volunteer Jean Falkner of Standish was judging team spirit during the robot matches.

“This is so awesome for these kids,” she said. “I love the skills it teaches. Problem-solving, teamwork are needed in the real world.”

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net

Noah Stephey, center, and Robby Clendenning, right, cheer with their “Aye Sea Legos” teammates as they pick up 90 points for completing most of their missions during the third and final round of the Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship in Augusta on Saturday. “Aye Sea Legos” is a team of home-schooled students from the Enfield area. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Referee Brian Bousquet-Smith of Yarmounth talks with Spruce Mountain Middle School students Jaedyn White, second from left, Nathaniel Lovewell and Connor Roy following their second-round performance in the Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship in Augusta on Saturday. White, 11, Lovewell, 12, and Roy, 12, are members of the team “Who are We?” (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Referee Drew Bennett inspects the robot performance table following the first-round performance by “Pipe Patrol,” the Oxford Hills home-school robotics team during the Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship in Augusta on Saturday. Bennett graduated from Brewer High School and is now a student at the University of Maine. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Volunteer field resetter Acacia Fournier, right, a sophomore at Spruce Mountain High School, talks with Lily Bailey, a 13-year-old member of the Spruce Mountain Middle School robotics team “The Snail People” during the Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship in Augusta on Saturday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The “Aye Sea Legos” robot works on a mission. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Awards were presented to teams based on various accomplishments such as teamwork, mechanical design, performance, innovation and presentation. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Andrew Whynot, 13, makes sure that his team’s Lego robot is aligned sufficiently to accomplish its mission during the Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship in Augusta on Saturday. Whynot is a member of “Pipe Patrol,” the Oxford Hills home-school robotics team. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship awards   

Champion’s award
  • 1st place: Water Those?, Caribou
  • 2nd place: Pipe Patrol, Oxford Hills Home-school
  • 3rd place: Smart Fun Engineers, Farmington
Gracious Professionalism award:
  • 1st place: Noble Nezinscot Nerds, Buckfield
  • 2nd place: Coyote Pups — Alpha, Old Town
Research award:
  • 1st place: H2O07, Fairfield
  • 2nd place: Yellow Submarines, Searsport
Presentation award
  • 1st place: Hydro Llamas, Kennebunk
  • 2nd place: Gardiner Lego Robots 2, Gardiner
Energizer award
  • Team: BE EV3’s, Buxton
T-Shirt award
  • 1st place: System Overload, Buckfield
  • 2nd place: Drought Scouts, Lamoine
Mechanical Design award
  • 1st place: Blue Jesters, S. Berwick
  • 2nd place: Salty Savages, Jay
Programming award
  • 1st place: Hydro Hawks, Fort Kent
  • 2nd place: Excelerators, Winslow
Strategy and Innovation award
  • 1st place: The Leaky Sinks, Kennebunk
  • 2nd place: Robo Cougars, Farmington
Inspiration award
  • 1st place: Aye Sea Legos, Howland/Enfield
  • 2nd place: Who Are We?, Jay
Teamwork award
  • 1st place: The Snail People, Jay
  • 2nd place: Noteworthy Nezinscot Nerds, Buckfield
Innovative Solution Award
  • 1st place: Coyote Pups — Gamma, Old Town
  • 2nd place: Waterville Junior High Team, Waterville
 
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