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PyroBots research wins state tourament

By Staff | Jan 1, 2010

The PyroBots of Jefferson County win first place for Research Project Presentation at the WV First Lego League State Tournament in Wheeling. Pictured are Robbie Barrat, Baxter Long, Nick Malin and Jedidah Smith.

WHEELING – The Trinity Robo Warriors of Trinity Christian School in Morgantown battled the snow and 16 other teams Saturday to earn its second consecutive West Virginia FIRST Lego League state tournament championship at Wheeling Jesuit University. The PyroBots from Jefferson County won first place in the research project presentation category for their work investigating recyclable green tires.

The winter storm that blanketed West Virginia on Dec. 19 prevented 10 of the 27 teams entered in the annual event from making it to Wheeling. The 27 teams had been the most ever scheduled to compete in the robotics tournament. Still, more than 100 youth ages 9 to 14 took part in the event, which was being held at the Center for Educational Technologies at Wheeling Jesuit for the fifth consecutive year.

Sponsors of the tournament were the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium, American Electric Power; Wheeling Jesuit University; Health Bridge Imaging of Belpre, Ohio; and LEGO Education.

Members of the winning Robo Warriors are Julian Bailes, Maggie Collins, Josh Broadman, Rebecca Broadman and Christian Hawkinberry. The Robo Warriors are coached by Marie Broadman. Doug Feasline and Rocky Furlong serve as mentors for the team. Perhaps more impressively, Bailes is the only member of the Robo Warriors who was on last year’s championship squad. This also was Colleen Bailes’ first year as coach and also the first year for her assistant, Marie Broadman.

The victory by the Robo Warriors earned them the right to represent West Virginia at April’s First LEGO League World Festival in Atlanta.

Smart Move was the theme of this year’s competition. Student teams preprogrammed their LEGO robots to serve as sensor-equipped vehicles to perform various transportation-related tasks, among them maneuvering and parking in certain target areas, steering to retrieve objects, avoiding warning beacons and sensor walls and helping crash test figures in the vehicles to survive impact.

For their research presentation students examined their community and how people, animals, information and things travel there. They reported on obstacles to travel and the solutions they came up with. The winning research team, the PyroBots of Shenandoah Junction in Jefferson County, proposed a “green” vehicle tire made of recyclable vegetable oil polyurethane. The PyroBots are Robbie Barrat, Baxter Long, Nick Malin and Jedidiah Smith. Anne Barrat is coach.

The Roboteers, who won state titles in 2006 and 2007 representing the Morgantown Learning Academy, earned second place in the tournament championship. They also earned second in the robot table performance competition. Members of the Roboteers are Amelia Bieniek, Dominique Hunter, Iain MacKay, Tristan Dennis, Marco Toro and Mateo Biaforo. Daren Bieniek and Charles MacKay coach the Roboteers.

“The kids were all strongly engaged, even when throwing occasional snowballs,” joked Chuck Wood, director of the Center for Educational Technologies and one of the judges at Saturday’s competition. “I was impressed with how often a young teen woman was team leader. About 50 percent of the participants were female. Robotics seems to be a good way to attract females to science; we have to work on keeping their interest.”

Judges also observed and interviewed the students to determine how well they demonstrated the teamwork skills required for successful research and engineering projects.

Founded by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was created to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST LEGO League started in 1988 with a partnership between FIRST and the LEGO Company. More than 48,000 children participate in the program.

Meri Cummings, science resource teacher at the center, served as tournament director for her fifth year and was assisted by Sharon Morgan, on-site assistant director of the Challenger Learning Center located in the Center for Educational Technologies.

Here are the competition category winners:

Robot Design: 1. Mars Rovers, Mountaineer Area Robotics, Morgantown. 2. J-Ro, Jackson Middle School, Vienna.

Research Presentation: 1. PyroBots, Shenandoah Junction. 2. Midget Men, Martinsburg.

Teamwork: 1. Smarticle Robo Builders, Cheat Lake Middle School, Morgantown. 2. PRIDE (Preston Robotics Is Definitely Epic), Preston County Gifted (TAG), Kingwood.

Robot Performance at Table: 1. Mars Rovers, Mountaineer Area Robotics, Morgantown. 2. Roboteers, Morgantown Learning Academy, Morgantown.

Coach/Mentor Award: Rickey Meade, coach of the Career Center Critters representing Mingo Career and Technical Center in Delbarton. Meade was honored for his tireless efforts in bringing a van full of robotics tournament tables, mats and models to demonstrate for all participants in the tournament each year. Tournament director Cummings noted in her nomination that Meade often gives up time with his own team to help others at the tournament.

FIRST LEGO League Values Award for being ambassadors of cooperation: Geek Central, Cheat Lake Middle School, Morgantown. They are coached by Mark Tennant, David Hough, and Todd Hannah.

FIRST LEGO League Values Award for team spirit and quality research: Virtual Vikings, Cheat Lake Middle School, Morgantown. They are coached by Brian and Cathy Woerner.

Many thanks to Tournament sponsor, NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Without this sponsorship, the West Virginia state tournament fee for team participation would be much more.

The Erma Ora Byrd Center for Educational Technologies (www.cet.edu) houses cutting-edge educational technology in its 48,000-square foot facility on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling. The center is home to the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future, the space agency’s principal research and development center for educational technologies, and the Challenger Learning Center, which provides students, teachers and adult learners with on site and distance learning simulations that emphasize teamwork, problem-solving, decision-making and communication skills.

One of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, Wheeling Jesuit University offers students a high-quality private education. Since 1995 U.S. News & World Report has ranked Wheeling Jesuit University among the top institutions in its “Best Master’s Universities in the South” category. The campus is also home to the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center and the Clifford M. Lewis Appalachian Institute. For more information, please call 1(800) 624-6992.