FuerzaBots Gearing Up

For its second year, LWGMS has been offering a robotics and programming club – FuerzaBots! Guided by Director of Technology, Ms. Cristina and Math and Science teacher, Ms. Christine, the FuerzaBots team has been busy preparing for the FIRST® (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO® League (FLL®) Robotics Challenge. Each year, FIRST® releases a new challenge that engages teams in hands-on robotics design and scientific research. The theme for the challenge is different each year, allowing teams to learn about a variety of subjects. This year, teams will apply research and robotics to explore the future of learning with the 2014 FLL® "Learning Unleashed" challenge. To successfully complete the challenge, teams of young people must build and program a LEGO MINDSTORMS® robot to complete missions on a thematic playing surface and conduct research to discover and redesign how we gather knowledge and skills in the 21st century. This is Lake Washington Girls Middle School's second year participating in the event.

The FuerzaBots, comprised of sixth grade students Sophie, Emiko, Harriet, and Charlotte, seventh grade students Maya, Mena, Eleanor R., and Julia, and eighth grade students Hava and Mackenzie, have been tackling this year's Challenge as a unit. Each Challenge has three parts: the Robot Game, the Project, and the FLL® Core Values. Teams of up to ten kids (on the competition floor), with one adult coach, participate in the Challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game) and developing a solution to a problem they have identified (Project), all guided by FLL®’s Core Values – that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals, and that helping one another is the foundation of teamwork. 

The theme for this year’s competition is Learning Unleashed. For the "project" part of the challenge, teams were tasked to develop an innovative solution to teach middle school students how to set privacy settings on social media and protect themselves against third party websites. The FuerzaBots – using the process of Design Thinking – researched privacy settings by reading articles, interviewed internet privacy experts, and even created a fake Facebook account to better understand privacy settings and how to best protect ourselves online. The FuerzaBots decided the best way to teach others would be to make a public service announcement that middle school students could share with one another at school or on TV. The FuerzaBots are preparing a presentation of their solution to share with the judges at this weekend's tournament.

The FuerzaBots have also been working diligently on the Robot Challenge for which, over three months, they designed, built, and programed four robots, one of which will tackle as many obstacles representing education and technology as possible in 2.5 minutes. The FuerzaBots dove into programing the "brick" – the brains – of the robot, and they quickly learned how the sensors work, and in what situations they would be used. They also mastered how the motors work to make the robot go forward, backward, and to turn, as well as how to make the robots pick items up and move levers. As of today the FuerzaBot's robots can complete six of the ten course obstacles.

The  FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) Robotics Regional Tournament is today, Saturday, December 6, at Ballard High School in Seattle. During the tournament, teams have three rounds on the competition tables to get the best score possible. When not competing with their robots, teams give their research presentations, and are interviewed about the technical design of their robots and how they work as teams. Regional qualifiers may advance to the championship event in January. The winners of the Champion's Award, the most prestigious award, may be eligible to participate in a variety of post-season tournament opportunities both domestic and abroad. This, their first year, our FuerzaBots, whose motto is "Code Like a Girl," (#codelikeagirl) are excited to be participating in the tournament and will be focusing on getting as far as they can and learning from the mistakes they make along the way.

Keep up with the FuerzaBots today on Instagram!




More about FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®)

 FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®)  is a robotic competition developed for middle school students. The FLL® theme is different each year and is drawn from real events in society. 

There are three primary activities: 

  1. Build and program a small robot to accomplish challenges, 
  2. Investigate a research topic then prepare a presentation and 
  3. Build a team around the FLL® Core Values. All of these activities culminate in a competition with other teams at a regional tournament

The Lego Robot
Robot challenges are the most visible aspect of the competition. Robots are built and programmed to perform different tasks on a 4'x8' printed vinyl playing mat. The robot interacts with specialized LEGO parts that represent the tasks. Each year the playing mat and LEGO parts change to support the annual theme. The basic robot parts and competition table are reusable every year. The mat and challenge parts are NOT reused but are great for off-season games and practice.

Research Project
An equally important aspect of the competition is the research topic. Like the robotic challenges, the research topic has some connection with the overall FLL® theme. Students are given basic guidance then encouraged to create a solution for the research challenge. They research the topic, propose a solution, then develop a presentation that summarizes and defends their conclusions.

Regional Tournament
Everything comes together at a Regional Tournament. The team meets with judges three times: for a technical review of their robot, to present their research, and to demonstrate how the team learned Core Values. All teams are assessed on Core Values behavior throughout the competition. Each team also attempts the robots challenge tasks at least three times on the competition tables.

The Regional Tournament provides an exciting opportunity for teams to learn from each other and share their excitement rather than a "winner takes all" competition. Teams advance to the Semifinal events and then to a Washington State Championship based on overall performance at the competition.

Washington State hosts regional competitions that feed into several Semifinal events and then a State Championship event.

Missions Include:
■ Push a lever to open a door to learning
■ Complete a sports-based task
■ Move an idea outside the box
■ Rotate models to adapt
■ Load a model with knowledge and skill loops
■ Reverse engineer a unique structure

FLL® teams will:
■ Choose a topic they are passionate about and have always wanted to learn.
■ Create an innovative solution that improves the learning experience.
■ Share their solutions with others.
■ Build, test, and program an autonomous robot using a LEGO MINDSTORMS® set to solve missions on an obstacle course.