The Wellington Middle School robotics team wowed judges at the FIRST Lego League Grandview Heights Regional competition on Dec. 1, placing among the top five out of 19 teams and winning the Gracious Professionalism award.
Coach Monique Sierzputowski said the top five teams advance to the district competition on Jan. 12 in Dublin. Co-coach of the team is Dave Nye.
Sierzputowski also coaches a second team of Wellington students: her own children -- sixth-grader Ben, seventh-grader Jacquie and eighth-grader Will, who competed with 24 other teams Dec. 15 at Columbus State Community College and brought home the Inspiration Award. As one of six teams to advance from that contest, it, too, will compete at regionals in Dublin on Jan. 12.
"Dave and I were so proud of the team," she said. "They were outstanding team members and great representatives of their school."
She said each middle school team had to build and program a robot to complete a number of tasks on a competition table in a 2.5 minute robot round.
The robots were built with Lego NXT Mindstorm software bricks and finished with Lego pieces as bodies and attachments.
Each team had to have more than a working robot, however. The theme of the competition was "senior solutions," and the goal was for team members to explore a challenge that exists with senior citizens and come up with an innovative solution.
The Wellington team tackled age-related memory loss. Their plan was to offer a class for seniors to explain why memory loss happens. They also presented strategies people can use to help retain memory, such as playing brain games or eating certain foods.
"I loved this year's theme because it got kids thinking about how to improve the quality of life for seniors by helping them continue to be independent, engaged and connected in their communities," Sierzputowski said.
She said the team's success depended on mastering all the competition components.
"I think they competed well because they really embraced all aspects of the program -- the Robot Game, the Project and Teamwork," she said. "They used problem-solving and decision-making processes to help them achieve their goals."
Team members are fifth-graders Alan Chow from Upper Arlington; Ian Gleissner from Powell and Andrew Dvorkin from Dublin. Other team members are seventh-grader Spencer Povoski of Dublin and eighth-graders Anusha Kalyanasundaram of Powell and Ellora Majumder of Dublin.
Sierzputowski said the acronym FIRST means For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
She said the Wellington middle school team will be one of 20 middle school teams at the Jan. 12 district tournament, the top 25 percent of all the teams from four regional contests.
"The kids have already brainstormed what they want to change on their robot," she said. "They talked about what worked and didn't work and will tweak the programs. They learned a great deal from other teams at their competition and also from their own robot rounds. They plan to look at the use of light sensors and innovative features for the next competition."
Older students at Wellington also are revving up robots this month.
The Upper School will host the Ohio FIRST Tech Challenge Central Qualifying Tournament on Jan. 11 and 12, at 3650 Reed Road in Columbus.
Caroline Haskett, director of marketing for the school, said robotics teams first began at Wellington as an after-school activity created by students.
"Now we have a full-credit robotics course offered as a part of our Upper School curriculum," she said.
The course is a full-year science course for students who want to participate in the FIRST Tech Challenge.
Haskett said the class allows students who participate on the robotics team an opportunity to learn how to design, develop and program a sophisticated robot, construct a competition field and compete in robotics tournaments.