Seven teams of students from Forsyth County competed — and many placed — in the recent annual First Lego League State Championship.
"It’s very involved," said Christi Phillips, horizons teacher at Haw Creek Elementary School. "I’m sure we spent over 150 hours after school preparing this, practicing with the robot, researching, writing scripts, building and painting backdrops.
"And what’s fun is these kids are so creative in so many different ways."
All the hard work paid off for Phillips’ team, the Mean Green Helping Machines, which earned the Best Project Award.
The Haw Creek parent-led team, the Baconeaters, received the Best Robotics Performance and Score Award during the competition, held last weekend at Georgia Tech.
It was a huge victory for Taylor Sobczak, a fifth-grader on the Baconeaters. His favorite part was the robot runs, where students worked to program robots to perform certain tasks.
"There’s a lot of excitement because the robot does its missions on the table," he said.
The theme for the competition was Food Factor, focusing on food and food safety.
The teams were judged on a research project, their robots and core values, because at the fourth- through eighth-grade level, it’s a friendly competition, explained Phillips.
Seven of the 48 teams, which had up to 10 students each, hailed from Forsyth County.
In addition to the Haw Creek teams, the Daves Creek Elementary Engineering Squad took the Judges Award, while a team of home-schooled students, Team Super Awesome, won the Inspiration award.
The Volunteer Award went to James Trobaugh, who heads the Forsyth Alliance, which helps guide schools in the county to prepare them for robotics competitions.
Radio Active Gummy Bears from Lakeside Middle, Sharon Elementary’s Cantaloupe-ateers and Vickery Creek Middle’s Revolutionary Lego Vipers also took part.
The event is open to middle school students, as well as fourth- and fifth-graders.
With her fourth-graders and other local elementary teams placing at the state level, Phillips said the sky’s the limit for them in middle school.
"They say that Lego building is one of the highest forms of education tools you can have," she said. "It teaches logical problem solving, creative problem solving, it teaches collaborative or team workers, it helps with research skills."
In preparation, Phillips said her students met with an alternative pesticide company, which "gave us some really good ideas on his alternatives to pesticides and how to get those out into the community."
The students also met with a doctor, who taught them about the effects of toxins to the human body.
Students in the parent-led Haw Creek team "visited Publix and they went to a farm where they grew organic food," explained Taylor Sobczak’s father, Martin.
"It’s gratifying to me that they get these opportunities," he said. "It’s instilling science and technology at the grassroots level."
Next up on the local robotics radar is the regional high school competition in March.