LEGO team advances to BGSU

Staff Writer

Saturday was a busy day for New Bremen students. The varsity volleyball team took a trip down to Dayton to compete for states, and two FIRST LEGO League teams travelled to Versailles to compete in a district tournament against 23 other teams.
The New Bremen Astrobots and the New Bremen 2 Too’s walked away with their heads high and their arms full of awards after Saturday’s competition. The Astrobots came home with Best in Mechanical Design and the 2 Too’s left with the title of Champion — meaning they were the best out of all 24 teams competing — as well as runner-up in the Robot Games. Both teams will get to move on to the district qualifier round at Bowling Green State University in January.
“I don’t think we expected to get first place let alone have both teams move on,” said Katie Spragg, one of the coaches for the teams.
She added that the students were extremely excited when they found out they were moving on.
The 2017-18 school year was the first year for New Bremen’s FIRST LEGO League team, and they were unable to make it past the first round of competition, which made this win more exciting for the students.
The two teams are comprised of several students, ages ranging from 9 to 14 years old. They spent months preparing for the competition with meetings starting in July.
In order to prepare, the team has to develop a real life problem scientists in the field the theme for the year is based off of face, and develop a solution. The robots they design and program must also be able to autonomously complete tasks at the tournaments and the team has to participate in a team building exercise as well.
“All three of those [categories] are combined and they award who gets to move on to districts,” Spragg said.
This year’s theme is one that hits close to home for the Auglaize County residents. INTO ORBIT has the students work to develop a problem and solution astronauts face.
Real life astronaut and first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong grew up in nearby Wapakoneta just more than 17 miles northeast of New Bremen.
Both teams created their own problem to solve, which they determined after some research, Spragg said. The New Bremen 2 Too’s created a solution to help astronauts with isolation and exercise.
“They developed what they call a VRT, or virtual reality trainer,” she explained. “There’s treadmills and bikes on the international space station — and basically you use the virtual reality set and get to bike and or run in your neighborhood down on Earth and then when you finish running you get a message from home.”
The New Bremen Astrobots also focused on exercise and developed a game called Astroball.
“It’s basically like a target ball game that they can play in space,” Spragg said. “And because it’s zero gravity the target will spin and the balls will be more difficult to get on the target. It’s like a velcro ball game.”
There is an app that also goes with the game, and for the team that wins, they will receive a message from home, or from a famous person.
Learning to program from two of their coaches, Bruce Spragg and Andy Steinke, the team teaches their robot to complete tasks like picking up and moving lego pieces, angle solar panels, cross rough terrain and push, pull and lift objects to reach certain predetermined goals. Each task they perform earns them points that are tallied together.
“Our team for the first time this year used light sensors and color sensors,” she explained. “So on the board when [the robot] gets to a black spot, it knows to turn.”
The team will compete against other district winners on Jan. 12 at BGSU.
FIRST LEGO League was founded in 1998 by FIRST founder Dean Kamen and LEGO Group owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. Focusing on real-world problems, they developed an international competition that challenges students to research, problem-solve and design robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS technology. Students focus on using stem, technology, engineering and math concepts and hands on learning to solve problems.