Adventist Lego League

by Jonathan Gennick

I visited my daughter's school this weekend,
primarily to watch their gymanistic
's yearly home show, but ended up staying an extra day to watch the
first-ever Adventist Lego League
Robotics Challenge. Obviously inspired by what First
Lego League
has done, the Adventist Lego League modifies the program slightly
to better mesh with the Seventh-day Adventist educational
and philosophies:

  • The age-range encompasess elementary through high-school.

  • The competitive aspects have been greatly reduced. Teams do not compete
    against each other at all, but against a scoring scale. For example, multiple
    teams can achieve "first-place" awards, provided they score high
    enough to get over the bar established for that award level.

  • The challenge schedule is aligned with the school year. This gives schools
    plenty of time to put teams together and practice before the big meet takes
    place in May.

  • No meets are scheduled on Saturdays, the day on which Seventh-day Adventists

While at the meet, I spoke with Mel Wade, Information Technology Director
for the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and one of the prime-movers
behind the Adventist Lego League. Mel pointed out that membership is not limited
to schools, and, just as with the First Lego League, any interested group can
form a team. Plans for next year include forming an official partnership with First Lego League.

I really enjoyed watching this meet. So did my son, who reminded me of my promise
last fall to build him a Lego table and buy him a robotic kit. Who knows, maybe
I'll coach a team next year.

Following are some of the photos I took of the event:

Mars Maniacs

The Mars Maniacs from Grayling, Michigan. This
team was under some serious pressure due to a layout change they hadn't
been aware of.


Mars Maniacs, the programmers

But they rose to the occasion! Kaleb Morgan and Kayla Baker
did some serious reprogramming under far greater time pressure than I'd want
to work under.


Jack Shelley and the Boulder RollJacqueline
"Jack" Shelley of team Technicalities, tests out some
last-minute adjustments to her team's Boulder Roll program.


Team Legally Blond

Team Legally Blond, with their robot.


Jen from the Trogdor team

Jen Moutsatson from team Trogodor scrutinizes their robot's perfromance.


Technicalities doing some reprogramming

"Jack" dictates some programming adjustments to Ted Quinty for that Boulder


Testing the Boulder Roll program

"Jack" and Angee Pineo have another go at the
Boulder Roll. Will it work this time?


3 Teens and a Chaperone on the challenge table.

Sami Snelling and a teammate from 3 Teens and a Chaparone run
through the challenges in front of the judges.


Big wheels

Sami shows off her team's car. The large wheels made it
the fastest car on the floor, and it was really fun to watch.


Dust particle knocker-offer

The Mars Maniacs entry. I really liked their use
of rotating, whirling, purple wands to knock off the "dust particles".

I learned a few things about robotics programming from talking to the kids.
Several teams told me that battery performance affects their programming, and
they either need to change batteries often or tweak their programming as batteries
wear down. Sami Snelling explained their choice of large wheels, saying that
the large wheels made it easier for the robot to roll over obstacles. A tradeoff
was that when she slowed down the moter to compensate for the large wheels,
she risked stalling if she slowed it too much. Interestingly, their team left the tires off the front wheels in order to decrease the turning radius. It seems that the friction from the large tires is more than the turning motor can overcome, so with tires you get a gradual turn. Without tires, you have hard plastic turning on a vinyl mat, resulting in less friction and a sharper turn. Finally, I learned that some
of the programming tasks involved in the challenge are actually quite difficult.
I saw teams putting a great deal of time and effort into fine-tuning the Boulder
Roll. It's not such an easy problem to solve as it may first appear. My congratulations
go out to all the teams for their efforts.