Spruce Mountain Lego League teams win awards at state competition

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JAY — On Dec. 13, five teams from Spruce Mountain Middle School competed at the Maine State Lego League Championships at the Augusta Civic Center. The competition featured student-constructed Lego robots competing on a 4-foot by 8-foot playing table, completing missions representing this year’s theme, “World Class – Education in the 21st Century.”

Students were also judged on research projects, innovative solutions for improving education, teamwork, spirit and core values. Seventy-two teams from across Maine took part in the competition, sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) and Maine Robotics.

The five teams from Spruce Mountain have been working diligently since the opening of school in September and were recognized for their efforts.

“This Is Not Rocket Science,” whose members include Trevor Haynes, Hunter Quirrion, Caleb Blanche, Dylan Gould, Drew Delaney, Owen Wilkins, Carter Mitchell, Isaac Pinard and Jordan Blanche, created a robot that finished in 20th place overall after qualifying runs, the second highest finish by a Spruce Mountain Team at the competition.

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“The Time Lords,” featuring team members Joni George, Kierra Dykeman, Lorelei Monroe and Jordan Blais, impressed the judges with their teamwork and the way they interacted with opponents and judges, bringing home a first-place trophy for Gracious Professionalism. Alecia Castonguay was also a member of the Time Lords team, but was not able to attend the competition.

“The Minions,” whose project examined how to improve schools by reducing bullying, earned a first-place trophy in Project Research. The team had met with school counselor Catherine Siggens and Doug Saunders of the Franklin County Children’s Task Force to learn about the impact of bullying and how it can be prevented, as well as with Rep. Paul Gilbert, who helped them understand Maine’s School Bullying Law, which was passed in 2012. The Minions robot finished in 22nd place after qualifying. The team includes Michael Jones, Melissa Bamford, Acacia Fournier and Roni-Jo Morrison. Morrison also won the “Rules Ace” award for her team by answering questions on the 30-page competition rule book.

Team “Infinity,” consisting of members Jared Holland, Hannah Burhoe, Orion Schwab, Cameron Menthe, Joel Soper, Abby Thurston and Sarah Henderson, won a first-place trophy for Innovative Solution. The team met with faculty from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology via an online webinar and discussed “The Radix Endeavor,” a mass multiplayer online game designed by the MIT Education Arcade to teach students about math and science. The team took inspiration from the Radix Endeavor’s use of constructivism and developed a board game for teaching survival skills, which the judges called “spot-on innovative.” Thurston was also able to share the team’s work with Radix Endeavor developer Susannah Gordon-Messer of MIT, who was in attendance at the civic center helping run events for the Maine Digital Festival.

Team “Oozma Kappa” designed, constructed and programmed a robot that finished sixth overall after qualifying runs, which qualified the team for the elimination finals. The robot proved to run consistently and reliably throughout the elimination rounds, defeating a number of robots that scored higher during qualifying, but could not put up scores as consistently. With team members Alana McDaniel and Jack Gilbert calmly doing the “driving” in a highly stressful environment and teammates Hallie Pike, Destiny Daigle, Jasper Butler, Garret Smith, Jonathan Brenner and Chandler Pike leading enthusiastic cheers, the team won first place in Robot Eliminations and was presented the First Place Inspiration Award. As part of the team’s research project, the team worked with music teacher Diane Fenlason and proposed that middle school students should learn to compose music and wrote an original musical composition, which they were given the opportunity to perform for the crowd at the civic center prior to the elimination finals.

The Lego robotics after-school program also provided opportunities for students who wanted to learn to design, build and program Lego robots, but did not feel ready for the rigors of the FIRST Lego League competition. These students successfully built, tested and improved robots and were a welcome addition to the program. They include Jayden Audette, Evany Black, Ian Salvati, Bryce McDonald, Sam Norris, Dan Nolan, Michael Pelton, Logan Harvell and Travis McDonald.

Member of Spruce Mountain High School FIRST Robotics Team 3930 served as highly valuable mentors to the middle school Lego League program. Shane Riley, Bryan Riley, Shawn Lecowich and Madison Lecowich were great role models for younger students and without their help, it would have been very difficult to meet the needs of the 50 middle school students who participated in some fashion throughout the season. Team 3930 member Cam Noll and Ben Nichols also made mentoring contributions throughout the season. Numerous members of Team 3930 volunteered to help at the state competition and Bryan Riley developed and help administer the Rules Ace test given to students.

The Spruce Mountain Lego League teams were mentored by teachers Rob Taylor, Jay Lindsey and Dan Lemieux, as well as parents Joel Pike and Duane Fournier.

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