Legoland, Here We Come!
by Julia Hsing/Parks Jr. High School --
It was embarrassing to admit that on Friday, November 13, STEAMPunk was still not ready for the Apple Valley qualifying competition scheduled for the very next day. Representing D. Russell Parks Jr. High as a “veteran” team, Riley Dao, Gabriel Fok, Paige Ho, Rachel Lee, Aaron Yi, and I wished to earn at least 300 points during our robot game runs, as last year we only scored an unbelievably low 65 points. But most importantly, we wanted to rock our qualifying competition and be able to move on to the regional competition held at Legoland. Unfortunately, spending more time for programming means spending less time to work on our presentation and skit. We were still trying to fix small parts in our skit about nuclear waste during the wee hours on November 13.
All STEAMPunks met in front of our school at 6:30 A.M. on November 14. We carpooled to Apple Valley in order to practice our skit altogether one last time. We were also given last-minute acting lessons from the gracious mom behind the wheel. By the time we arrived at Apple Valley, we felt very confident. There were a total of 17 teams, and each one had a special identity. One team wore huge hard hats with their team logo, while most of us had bright t-shirts trying to stand out from the crowds. STEAMPunk guys wore blue headbands and we girls wore colorful ribbons in our hair. It seemed more like a friendly festival than a fierce competition.
FLL focuses on three particular aspects: robot game (programming robots to do specific tasks/missions to gain points), project and research (creating a realistic innovative solution for a problem and presenting it to judges in a skit), and core values (applying Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition; two FLL inspired words). A winning team must excel in all three aspects in order to win this competition.
This year’s challenge was to identify a piece of trash and come up with an innovative solution for a problem the trash has caused. We have picked nuclear waste in barrels at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean as a harmful problem. These radioactive barrels leak and can cause mutations to sea creatures. If our seafish get mutated by radioactive chemicals and we eat them, then we would also be eating the chemicals. Our team’s solution is to create 10 submarines, costing about $200,000 total, that will dive and collect bins of nuclear waste from the ocean. After retrieving the bins, we will then recycle the waste into energy. About 60-80% of nuclear waste can be reused as energy. We even created two videos to show to the judges. I felt relieved once we were finished with our skit, but I knew that we had room for improvement.
Because we worked so hard on programming our robot, STEAMPunks hoped to score high points on our robot runs. After the first round, we proudly stood in second place, but soon got bumped to seventh after the third round. Our highest score was 331, and the highest from our competition was over 500 points! I was very surprised to see this year’s competition so fierce! Programming had been our specialty. Imagine our disappointment at realizing that we needed more time to program more tricks to earn more points. We did not do enough.
We lost our confidence at the award ceremony when all the awards had been given to other teams, and the STEAMPunks was never called. I tried to keep a smile on my face and still cheered for other teams, when in reality, I felt defeated. The only two awards left were championship awards. I secretly wondered, “Could we be champions? What are the chances we are? What if we aren’t?” It seemed as if the STEAMPunks had been an above-average team. The room was dead silent when the most important awards were announced. AND THE STEAMPUNKS WERE CALLED UP!!! We had won the Championship award!
Winning the championship award is a great encouragement because it represents a team that had performed well at all three aspects of FLL. Winning this award also means that the STEAMPunks are now moving on to the next regional competition at Legoland on December 6, 2015! I’m glad I had been part of the robotics team for two consecutive years. FLL has changed my life in different ways. I value the importance of Gracious Professionalism, Coopertition, time management, and team spirit. I am also making progress on learning the basics of programming and creating a well-researched skit. This competition let our team learn from our mistakes of not having a balanced emphasis. For next competition, we definitely will focus on all the parts of FLL. Legoland, here we come!