Pawtucket, Central Falls students win Lego qualifying tournaments
NORTH PROVIDENCE – The Space Warriors, a team of fourth to sixth grade students from the Ella Risk School in Central Falls won the Champion’s Award at Saturday’s FIRST LEGO League qualifying tournament at the Edward Ricci School in North Providence. This is the event’s top award.
The Galaxy Gladiators, from Goff Junior High in Pawtucket, won the Core Values Award. Both teams, along with 10 others, advance to the FIRST LEGO League INTO ORBIT state championship on Jan. 12, hosted by Rhode Island Students of the Future and Roger Williams University, with support from National Grid.
Each student on the team that wins the Champion’s Award at the state championship receives a $20,000 scholarship –- $5,000 a year for four years — to attend Roger Williams University.
Cheryl Degnan, the librarian at Ella Risk School, started the FIRST LEGO League team to expand the after-school coding program. The school received two LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics kits through a grant from National Grid to Rhode Island Students of the Future, the non-profit that manages the FIRST LEGO League program. The team, four fourth-graders, four fifth-graders and one sixth-grader, has been meeting regularly since late September. Degnan said none of the team had experience building with LEGO parts, but they’ve learned about the engineering process while building the robot. They also practiced their coding skills, writing code to make the robot, which they’ve dubbed R2-D2, move around on a game board to complete tasks.
“The students taught themselves to use the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 software technology” said Degnan, adding that they developed their math skills as they coded their robot.
The theme for this year’s FIRST LEGO League season, INTO ORBIT, revolves around issues they would face if they lived in space long term. The Space Warriors focused on how they would maintain their Spanish language skills if they went long periods of time without using the language. While doing research on the subject, the team discovered a NASA “Story Time from Space” program where astronauts are recorded reading picture books. When the team realized that the 7-year old program did not feature any books being read in Spanish, they emailed the co-founder of the program. Ten days later, they were thrilled to notice there was a new book added to the program that was read in Spanish.
FIRST LEGO League is a global robotics program for children aged 9 to 14. Locally, it is run by Rhode Island Students of the Future, a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization. 74 teams from across the state, including three from Goff Junior High in Pawtucket and two from Central Falls (the Ella Risk and the Learning Community), participated in the season. 40, including the Space Warriors from the Ella Risk School and the Galaxy Gladiators from Goff Junior High, will advance to the state championship.
Degnan and Chris Colson, the teacher who coaches the Goff Junior High School team, learned the fundamentals of the FIRST LEGO League by attending a professional development program run by Rhode Island Students of the Future with support from National Grid and Textron Charitable Trust. The teams have met regularly for the past 10 weeks, building a robot, creating a project related to the annual theme, and learning to work together within the FIRST LEGO League Core Values, where “gracious professionals” compete hard, but treat each other, and their competitors, coaches and officials, with respect and courtesy.
While both Degnan and Colson report being super proud of their teams, they also said the teams want to spend the next few weeks amping up their robot and improving their programming so they are prepared for the state championship. They also plan to review the scoring rubric from the qualifying tournament to find other areas that need improvement.
There are two more FIRST LEGO League Rhode Island qualifying tournament, on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Gordon School in East Providence, and on Dec. 15 at Rocky Hill School in East Greenwich. The state championship is on Jan. 12 at Roger Williams University in Bristol. All of the tournaments are open to spectators; admission is free. Rhode Island Students of the Future has managed the FIRST LEGO League program in Rhode Island since 2002. The FIRST LEGO League season is supported by key sponsors, National Grid, Textron Charitable Trust and Polaris MEP. To date, teams advancing to the state championship include Family/ Neighborhood teams from Cranston/Warren, Lincoln, North Scituate, Smithfield, and Wakefield; Aquidneck Island Robotics, Middletown, and school teams from the San Miguel School, Providence; Martin Middle School and Riverside Middle School, East Providence; Lawn School, Jamestown; All Saints Academy, Middletown; the Beckwith School, Rehoboth, and Goff Junior High, Pawtucket.
For more information on the league, visit www.risf.net or www.firstinspires.org.
ABOVE: The Galaxy Gladiators from Goff Junior High won the Core Values award at the Dec. 1 FIRST LEGO League qualifying tournament at Edward Ricci Middle School in North Providence. Front, from left, Camilio DaRosa, Addison Kolb, Kydin Brown; rear, from left, Ryan Tremblay, Ethan Wijerathnayapa and William Dunn.
BELOW: The Space Warriors from the Ella Risk School celebrate winning the top award at the league qualifying tournament. Students Jhanaira Zuleta, Jordi Picon, Brandon Herrera, Anderson Amaya, Kimberlyn Rivera, Viviana Cruz, Aryana Hernandez, Juandiego Estrada, Sandra Roque will continue to improve their robot and project prior to the state championship.
RIGHT: William Dunn and Camilio DaRosa, from the Galaxy Gladiators at Goff Junior High, write a program for their robot. The team advanced to the state championship on Jan. 12 at Roger Williams University in Bristol.