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TimberBots excel in state robotics competition



Lego League Champions: Jace Enwards and Skyler Woodruff focus intently on the robot as the first session on the robot table begins at the Lego Robotics Championships in Hillsboro on Jan. 14.

The Goldendale Middle School TimberBots Lego robotics team competed at the First Lego League Oregon state championship in Hillsboro, Ore., on Saturday, Jan. 14, bringing home the first place award in the category of Core Values. “I really liked core values, because it made me look back and see how we were working together. We created and presented a poster with aspects like ‘personal growth’, ‘aha moments’, and other things” stated team member Ellisa Evans. The GMS team competed against 56 other teams, showing real strength in some parts of the competition.

The TimberBots team is comprised of Nadia Smith, Suzanna Bilderback, Ellisa Evans, Jace Enwards, Elizabeth Wheeler, Rose Roberts, and Skyler Woodruff. The team is coached by Jennifer Holycross and Jennifer Smith. Following their regional win at The Dalles on Dec. 3, the team had time to revise their robot’s programming and complete two other aspects of the competition in order to be prepared for state competition.

Though the Lego Robot gets the bulk of the attention, one other part of the competition is developing a storyboard that explains the importance of teamwork, and cooperation. In fact, First Lego League, the sponsor, makes “coopertition” a cornerstone of the program. Competitors are required to always act in a professional manner toward other competitors, while preserving the spirit of competition.

An added facet of the TimberBot team’s work was completing a research project related to the “Food Factor” theme of this year’s Lego robotics championships. The GMS students selected pollution in the Columbia River system as their specific area of research, and presented a skit and their story board to a panel of three judges. GMS really excelled in this area, and the judges scored them with nearly all fours.

The most obvious result of their team work was building and programming a robot to perform certain tasks. “What I liked the most was trying to figure out what pieces we should use on the robot to make the programming work the best,” said Skyler Woodruff, one of the robot engineers. The TimberBots robot performed three separate times on the 4X8 robot board. During some of the sessions, the robot did well; during others it required more patience. Nadia Smith contributed, “I really liked the competition part of the Lego League Championships.”

Coach Holycross said, “I think the big improvement that happened over the course of the season was the way the kids started to work together as a team. Lego coaches are really supposed to take a back seat approach and let the kids do the problem solving and team building. That improved over the season.”

According to Coach Holycross, the next step for the team is starting a feeder program at the earlier grades, including possibly in the primary school. “This Lego team has two more years of competition, but a real key is developing younger contestants.” Competition is open to 9-14 year olds. Many teams were from schools, but some were 4-H clubs.

Some funding was provided through the Rise Up Gear Up grant.


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