Team Titans is the name of the Robotics Club at Salt River Elementary School. Over the past few weeks, the team has been taking field trips to learn about math and science and competing in robotics tournaments locally and nationally, including at the FIRST Lego League (FLL) World Festival, held back in April in St. Louis, Missouri.
Every September, FLL releases a challenge for all the school robotics teams in the league, and the challenge is based on a real-world scientific topic. Teams of up to 10 children, with one adult coach, participate in the challenge by programming an autonomous robot, constructed of Legos, to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game), developing a solution to a problem they have identified (Project), all guided by the FLL Core Values. Teams may then choose to attend an official tournament, like the one in Missouri.
Fourth-grader Anthony Evans, along with fifth-graders Dalia Resendiz and Jonathan Perez, gave an update on how Team Titans is coming along. “Right now our project is Food Factors,” said Perez, who is a returning member of the club.
The idea behind the Food Factor Challenge is for the teams to use their robots to creatively solve a contamination or spoiling problem so that people do not get sick from eating bad food. During this school year, the Titans have been learning all about food contamination and spoilage, and they have listened to guest speakers from companies such as Hickman’s Family Farms and Little Caesar’s Pizza, as well as science teacher Anne English from Salt River High School. The speakers explained about food contamination and the processes that their companies put in place to prevent it.
“I am the researcher/scorekeeper on Team Titans, and I research on how fast food can get contaminated,” said Perez. “And I also keep track of how many points we get.”
“We are having lots of fun while doing this,” said Evans, who is one of the programmers on the team. “I am really good at [programming] because I know the computer.”
The robot has to be programmed to perform certain functions to move various objects that represent bacteria, contamination and various food items. They have perfected the robot’s missions to earn a certain number of points by either having the robot knock something over, retrieve an object, deliver something or return to home base.
Currently, the team is building different “arms” for the robot, appendages designed to function and move specifically to accomplish each mission.
“We made a box that can get the bacteria in there and a thing to hold the food,” said Evans.
“[Running the various steps to complete a mission is] like one program back to back,” said the Team Titans coach, Angaelo Fernando.
“We are going to do a real competition this week. We have only done one scrimmage so far,” said Evans.
When asked what was next on the agenda for the team, Perez replied, “We will be competing in the regionals at Supai Middle School in Scottsdale. I’m not nervous, [like I was] last year when we went to St. Louis.” (Note: The regional competition was held on December 3.)
During their last scrimmage, another robotics team visited the Titans’ table and was impressed by what they had created; the Titans successfully completed one of the missions that the other team was unable to. “They wanted to know how we programmed the robot to do a mission all in one run,” said Perez. “The other team was impressed.”
“This also encourages ‘cooper-tition,’ which means competing and also cooperating with each other,” said Fernando.
The team is working on getting a truck to complete its mission; right now it is slightly off on the angle that it’s supposed to come back on. If it doesn’t make it back to base, then the team loses points.
“We are working on getting the truck back to base right now, and that completes the mission,” said Evans.
After reaching the level of regionals last year, Team Titans is looking forward to making it to the state competition this year. Many of the teams that will be competing have students who are older than those on the SRES team, from junior high and high schools.
FIRST Lego League Competition Judging
Judging in the robotics tournaments in the FIRST Lego League focuses on three key areas:
Project Presentation: The team presents their project and is asked about teamwork. The team has 20 minutes to set up and give their presentation, and they are judged on the content and their presentation. This encourages students to develop self-confidence and public speaking skills.
Core Values: Teams must complete a short activity to demonstrate their ability to work together, and they also do a poster presentation about the Core Values for the project.
Robot Performance Scoring: The team earns points based on how well their robot performs its missions within the allotted amount of time.