Grade 6, 7 Rimbey Christian School students place second in major robotics competition

  • Feb. 5, 2008 5:00 p.m.

Grade 6, 7 Rimbey Christian School students place second in major robotics competition

Review staff

Once again, students from Rimbey have made the community proud following a second-place finish at the Lego League Robotics Tournament, held at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton on Saturday, January 26.

Six students from the Rimbey Christian School, along with six more as support staff and their teacher, rose through as field of 31 teams from all over Alberta and the Northwest Territories to place second in the tourney that required them to construct, program and operate a robot to complete a series of challenges.

“We finished in second place in robot performance which is how many points they accumulated by completing challenges,” said Grade 6 and 7 teacher Paul Payson. “They had three rounds and two and a half minutes each with their highest score out of the three rounds counting towards their final score.”

Payson said the competition involved much more than simply building a robot out of Lego blocks as each entry had to operate autonomously without remote controlling and entirely off of a computer program.

The tournament involved some big-city schools as well including teams from both Edmonton and Calgary with the overall winner heading to Atlanta, Georgia for the world Championships in April.

Although this year’s entry was part of the class curriculum, Payson said that my change in the future.

“We did it this year as a class, but we’ll probably do it as a club in future years. They did a really good job,” he said. “Even though only their high score counted, they did really well in all three rounds and got very good scores.”

Payson said the students have been working on the project off and on since the beginning of the academic year and added that he felt it was a valuable learning experience.

“We worked basically since September for a couple of hours a week, usually Friday afternoons. We’ve also worked through a few lunch hours in January as well,” he said.

“I really like it as a teacher because they learn problem-solving through computer programming, and building a robot that would accomplish the tasks, so it was a cool thing for them to go through.”

His students agreed.

“It was really fun and really loud,” said Mitchel Rosebloom, a Grade 7 student who took part in the competition. “It took lots of hard work and there were lots of cool robots. I learned a lot about robotics, robot technology, we learned about solving problems and to use technological skills to work together.”

“We learned to work together and because we had to each do a program, we learned about programming our robots and how to put all the programs together to finish the final project,” said Grade 7 student Alelyse Loov who added that the most enjoyable part of the entire exercise was coming up with ideas on how the robot should complete its tasks.

Payson said the exercise was ideal for the students involved in the tournament as it gave them the experience of participating in a competition and taught them valuable lessons about the importance of teamwork.

“The idea behind the tournament is to put on a sporting-type of event for kids that aren’t necessarily into sports,” he said. “So to have that kind of level of excitement in a competition-type of format, the kids that are more interested in sciences and engineering and it encourages the development of that kind of career or challenges. It’s also really good for team building.”

As part of the competition, students were divided into teams of two each and were given three attempts at completing the tasks posed to them and their robots with their best times going towards their final standings.

“There’s always the possibility that something will go wrong, so if they have three rounds and their highest round counts, that way they don’t have to feel that they were eliminated just because something goes wrong,” Payson said. “They have a pit area so they can go back and fix the robots, fix their programs and really work on improving how it operates.”

During the competition, the robots are supposed to perform six different tasks in as little amount of time as possible by using the input from the students as well as some strategically placed sensors.

“It’s interesting because the robots actually have feedback sensors,” Payson said. “In the case of our robot, the kids built it with a rotation sensor, so instead of just running for a certain time, it actually counts rotations so the battery level won’t affect the robot as much as it would otherwise.”

Worldwide, more than 7,000 teams are entered in the competition each year and are given the exact same tasks to perform as well as the same square-foot area in which to complete the tasks The theme of this year’s tournament was: Renewable Energy.

In addition to the six students who actually participated in the competition, seven more also made the journey north as support staff and to familiarize themselves for next year’s tournament.

Through NAIT and the sponsors of the tournament which included the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta, Payson said the objective of the tournament was to encourage students to consider computer programming, engineering or a similar vocation as a future career option.