Robotics team fourth in state
“LEGOnauts” from Valley Oaks Charter School may never put a man on Mars, but a recent statewide competition at LEGOland in Carlsbad, CA, proved how good they were at programming a robot to perform tasks on Mars. On Dec. 6, LEGOnauts, a team of 10 students, ages 9-14, finished fourth among 48 California contenders at the LEGOland Mission Mars competition sponsored by Junior Robotics.
The students are all from Tehachapi and were coached by one of the student’s fathers, Steve Jacobson. The competition was based on NASA’s expected January 24 touch down on Mars at which time robotic rovers will conduct an exploration of the “Red Planet.” LEGOnauts, along with three other teams fielded by Valley Oaks, were required to program miniature robots they built from LEGOs parts to perform simulated Mars exploration tasks in the classroom.
Of the four teams, LEGOnauts finished first and “Mars Explorers” won the Team Work Award at regional competition to put both in the state finals. Three of the teams, LEGOnauts, Mars Explorers and “Valley Oaks Master Builders” won regional awards.
“Very extraordinary students made the Valley Oaks’ four teams,” Principal Shirley Oesch said. “They had to write essays demonstrating an interest in invention, motivation and the desire to be a team player. The students researched what challenges the robot would face completing the various tasks on Mars. At the competition, teams made oral presentations of their research and then had two minutes for their robot to complete as many tasks as it could.”
What transpired in the competitions was a culmination of the education that went on in the classroom. Student teams got together for three hours, twice a week, for 11 weeks. During that time, they researched, strategized, designed, built, programmed, tested and refined the totally autonomous robot, making it capable, with a computer chip memory, to complete the various missions. All of the missions were designed by First LEGO League International’s “Robot Game.”
“All of our students are home schooled,” Oesch pointed out. “So they don’t take classes together which made it interesting to see how they would do working in a group.”
Nationally, the competition dates back to1998. There are more than 1,600 teams throughout the United States which participate each year. School teams acquire specifically designed LEGO kits which include parts, a computer software tutorial and mini computer that allows the robot to perform programmable tasks.
Students teams that represented Valley Oaks in the competition were:
“LEGOnauts” (Tehachapi) — Coach Steve Jacobson, Students — Benjamin Jespersen, Luke Henderson, Jonathan Gonzales, Noah Hull, Daniel Hull, Zane Christenson, Dre Jackson, Marcus Jackson, Ben Jacobson and Madison Jacobson.
“Mars Explorers” (Bakersfield) - Coach Sylvia Oman, Students — Jordan Escobedo, Steven Garrett, Zora Hunter, Seth Dramer, Nathan Smith, Chris Oman and Nathan Vincent.
“Valley Oaks Master Builders” (Bakersfield) — Coach Gerry Collins, Students — Grant Brady, Andrew Collins, John Collins, Timothy Collins, Mark Duerr, Nick Duerr, Thomas Harlander and Blake Scheideman.
“Mountain Explorers” (Glennville) — Coaches Tony Vlach and Peter Iversen, Students — Joseph Adams, Julia Best, Rebecca Best, Matthew Bowen, Erik Iversen, Hayley Iversen, Bryce Vlach, Seth Vlach and Nathan Vlach.
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