FARMINGTON — Students at Smart Fun Learning Adventures, a private school at 454 Fairbanks Road, are preparing for the 2018 FIRST LEGO League Challenge.

Older students will be competing at the Western Maine FLL Qualifier in Jay on Saturday, Nov. 17. Students not old enough to compete are learning about robots and the core values emphasized in the challenge.

Students attending the Smart Fun Learning Adventures private school in Farmington are preparing for the 2018 FIRST LEGO League INTO ORBIT Challenge. They will be competing at the Western Maine Qualifier on Saturday, Nov. 17 in Jay. Pictured from left in front are Ava Ryan, Maggie Noles and Amaya Thomas. In back from left are Mariah Johnson, Brooke Bailey, Kurtis Webber, Evan Thomas, Reagan Lockaby and Cole Martin. (Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

In FIRST Lego League, students ages 9 through 14 design, build and program Lego Mindstorm robots to compete on a 4’ x 8’ table. FIRST LEGO League challenges kids to think like scientists and engineers.

This year’s Challenge is INTO ORBIT. Teams will build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® technology to solve a set of missions during the robot games.

Teams will choose and solve a real-world problem relating to space exploration. each team will give a five-minute presentation on their solution.

Teacher Sheena Thomas said this is the fourth year of competition for her students. The teams spend Monday and Wednesday afternoon working on the many missions included in this years’ challenge. Some after school and weekend hours are also used.

Smart Fun Learning Adventures practice team members from left Torri Ellis, Karintyn Savage, Krystin Herrin and Phoebe Wills work on their robots. (Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

Student Ava Ryan said they have been studying forms of radiation in space.

Evan Thomas said the plan is to create something like a lightning rod that will strip electrons from particles. When positively charged, the particles will be sucked up and not hit astronauts working in outer space.

Mariah Johnson said positively charged particles could shock or worse on Earth.

“There’s no air so we don’t need to worry,” Johnson said.

“We were told we’re working on an original idea,” Ryan said.

Phoebe Wills and Troy Bailey are part of a practice FIRST LEGO League robotics team at Smart Fun Learning Adventures, a private school in Farmington. (Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

Ryan’s cousin is a nurse who uses radiation to treat tumors at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer. The students Skyped with her to learn about radiation effects.

Evan said the game missions are challenging this year. The most difficult one is the strength exercise mission.

Cole Martin said that mission asks the robot to lift something that has a lot of weight. The team started with a conveyor belt that was geared down.

“We moved to a linear actuator with a bunch of gear stuff,” he said.

Reagan Lockavy said it excites her to get to move on, go to different places with the challenge such as the regional and state competitions.

Brooke Bailey said she learned more about radiation. She enjoyed the research part.

“After finishing the obstacles, going to the competitions is really rewarding,” Mariah said.

Maggie Noles likes learning about the FLL Core Values such as working together with teammates, accomplishing together.

FLL Core Values include celebrating discovery, coopertition, teamwork, and Gracious Professionalism®. Coopertition is a team’s willingness to help other teams even though they are in competition with each other.

Amaya Thomas said the favorite part for her is building and programming the robot.

“It’s fun to think about what we want to do and find solutions,” she said.

The Western Maine Qualifier will be held at Spruce Mountain High School on Nov. 17. Teams will be judged in the morning with the robotic challenge games starting around 1 p.m.

The public is welcome to watch the games. There will be raffles and refreshments available.

More than two dozen teams will be competing for the chance to represent their school at the state competition in Augusta on December 8.

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