Karrie Meyers – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … The second annual FIRST LEGO League Middle School Robotics Tournament was held at Mile High Academy (MHA) in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, February 11. The tournament brought together eight teams for a day filled with creativity, competition, and camaraderie.

Sponsored by Adventist Robotics, FIRST LEGO League, Mid-America Union Conference (MAUC), Rocky Mountain Conference (RMC), and MHA, the event marked a significant expansion from the previous year, doubling the number of participating teams. The teams in attendance this year were:

  • Brighton Adventist Academy Blackhawks (Colorado)
  • HMS Richards Adventist School Cougars (Colorado)
  • Mile High Academy Robostangs and Roborenegades (Colorado)
  • Minnetonka Christian Academy Royals (Minnesota)
  • Omaha Memorial Adventist School Angels (Nebraska)
  • Vista Ridge Academy The Minors and EnginEagles (Colorado)

Carisa Carr, MAUC’s associate director of education, commented, “Thank you to Rocky Mountain Conference and Mile High Academy for hosting the Mid-America Union Robotics Tournament. Witnessing teams demonstrate creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration was wonderful to see throughout the event. This event truly fostered an environment where students across our union had opportunity and where innovation and teamwork flourished.”

Teams arrived early, checking in by 8:00 a.m., and wasted no time in setting up their stations and fine-tuning their robotics for the day’s challenges. Throughout the morning, teams nervously awaited their turn to meet with judges and present their required innovation projects, which included sharing and answering questions regarding their researched, coded, and engineered projects while showcasing their problem-solving skills and creativity. And, when not presenting to the judges, the other teams focused on last-minute adjustments to their robotics and took advantage of two practice rounds to test their robotics before the official competition began.

After a quick lunch break followed by the opening ceremonies, the real competitions commenced. Teams faced off in intense 2-minute and 30-second matches, where their robots were tasked with hitting several key challenges. Judges closely observed each team’s performance, scoring them based on their robot’s efficiency and success in meeting the challenges.

Throughout the competition, teams had the opportunity to fine-tune their robots between matches, aiming to maximize their scores and performances. After completing three rounds of competition, judges convened to review the points awarded and discuss the results of the innovation project presentations.

“I enjoyed seeing all the teams and their creative problem-solving approaches,” said Mel Wade, director of Adventist Robotics. “I look forward to seeing even more teams next year!”

The judges’ deliberations lead to the announcement of several prestigious awards. Here is a recap of the awards and recipients.

  • The Core Values Award:Recognizes a team that demonstrated extraordinary enthusiasm, teamwork, and respect. (Minnetonka Christian Academy Royals)
  • Innovation Project Award:Celebrating a team that displayed creativity through research and effective communication. (Brighton Adventist Academy Blackhawks)
  • Robot Design Award:Acknowledging the team that used outstanding programming principles and solid engineering practices to develop a robot that is mechanically sound, durable, efficient, and highly capable of performing Challenge missions. (Vista Ridge Academy EnginEagles)
  • Robot Performance Award:Celebrating a team that scores the most points during the Robot Game. (Vista Ridge Academy EnginEagles)
  • Champion’s Award:Celebrating through the most prestigious award the team that embodies the FIRST LEGO League experience by fully embracing the FIRST Core Values while achieving excellence and innovation in both the Robot Game and the Innovation Project. (Mile High Academy Robostangs)

Ultimately, the points awarded during the tournament determined which teams would receive invitations to advance to the next level of competition at the FIRST LEGO League in Florida in May. The event concluded with the announcement that Mile High Academy Robostangs, Vista Ridge Academy EnginEagles, and Minnetonka Christian Academy Royals emerged as the top contenders, earning their invitations to represent their respective schools in Florida.

Owen Fritz, a member of the MHA Robostangs, reflected on his second year competing, emphasizing the importance of understanding the rules and the thrill of representing his school in Florida. “I’ve learned so much over the past two years. Heading to Florida with my Robostang team is a great opportunity to showcase our skills and teamwork.”

This year MHA had volunteers not only from the community but also invited the school’s upper school robotics team to volunteer at Sunday’s event. When asked if middle school robotics is preparing the teams for the upper school robotics elective, MHA student Adelaide Eno said, “When volunteering at a competition like this you sort of get an understanding of how different the middle school and upper school competitions are.”

Eno went on to say, “However, middle school robotics is teaching the students vital skills for taking it to the next level. I think that no team can truly succeed if they don’t collaborate and push each other to grow. What we’re seeing in FIRST Lego League is just that: it is teaching our students how to think outside the box, to problem solve, and to work together. These things are all essential to our U.S. team as well, and middle school robotics gives students a diverse set of tools to use when they begin competing in high school.”

The live portion of the tournament was streamed. If you would like to view, please click here.

—Karrie Meyers is the marketing and development coordinator at Mile High Academy. Photos supplied.