by Nichole Smith, Montverde Academy

On Saturday, November 4, MVA hosted the Eagle Lego Robotics Scrimmage for 17 middle school robotics teams across Central Florida, including three MVA middle school teams—#Grandma, #Grandpa, and #Uncle. The competition consisted of two parts: 1) the robot run where the students must accomplish missions with their self-built robots, and 2) a conversation with judges about their core values, innovation project, and how they built and programmed their robots.

This year’s theme for the competition is called Master Piece. Competitors had a practice run and three chances to get a high score, the highest of those three being taken during the robot run challenge. The other 75 percent of their score came from judging interviews where they were asked about how they built and programmed their robot and how they incorporated the FIRST® LEGO® core values of discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork, and fun.

For their innovation project this year, they had to select a hobby and elevate that hobby with a piece of technology and art. One of our teams is trying to make basketball accessible to the blind. The teams were inspired by a young lady with sight issues whose coach would stand behind the goal and hit the backboard so she could hear where it was located, and she won the game for her team. Inspired by this story, Team #Grandma created different ways for those with limited sight to play the game.

“We’re trying to incorporate our design into a real model,” said Eisha Cheema, an eighth-grade student on Team #Grandma. “I did robotics last year, and it was interesting to give new robotics students a visual of robotics as a whole. When we were in competition, we tried to include them in running missions, and we tried to show them all the different facets of robotics. It was really exciting having an event at Montverde Academy for robotics. It was very competitive, which added more pressure to the overall experience.”

Our three teams represented the school very well on Saturday. Team #Uncle had the second-highest score in the robot runs. “At first, we struggled with the robot coding because our code was defective, and we had to figure out a way to gain more points,” said Jesiah Howard, an eighth-grade student on Team #Uncle. “During the robot runs, we taught our teammates how to complete missions, which demonstrated our core value of gracious professionalism. Doing so helped us succeed in the end and gain friendships not only with our teammates but also with teams from other schools, enabling both our teams to succeed.”

Team #Grandma had the highest score in the judging rooms, and Team #Grandpa also had a high score in the judging rooms. “The judging rooms were where we presented our innovation projects to judges,” said Dash Green, an eighth-grade student on Team #Grandpa. “It was interactive and fun getting to talk to the judges because some of them had work experience in the field that our innovation was related to. The racing industry doesn’t have access for those who don’t have limbs to drive a racecar. Most of my team was brand new, but over time we came together, and now we are pretty good friends.”

Dr. Long, MVA’s Director of Educational Technology and Innovation who organized the event, said, “With MVA being the only school in Lake County that hosts this event, it’s an amazing opportunity to showcase our school and the students that work so hard to achieve top honors.”

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