This was my fourth season coaching an FLL team. This year all three Renaud girls were on the team: it was Jadzia’s fourth and final year, Ludi’s second, and Josie’s first.
The Viper Bots are a school-based team, so we begin when school begins in August at Vogt Elementary. After that, it’s a race to build and program our robot, research a project, and write a presentation by November. It is pretty exhausting.
The girls came up with a pretty cool project. The problem they investigated was growing plants in space so astronauts can eat fresh food. NASA has been testing hydroponic ways of doing this. The girls came up with what they believed might be an improvement: a spinning, wheel-shaped planter which would use centrifugal force to keep water from pooling on the roots of the plants. We visited the Challenger Center, submitted questions to NASA live chats, and eventually we visited local plant biologist Dr. Bethany Zolman at UMSL. They called their solution the “Spin and Grow”. They came up with a creative presentation which included Josie dressing up as an astronaut.
They also managed to build a robot that used two sensors we had never used before: the gyro and the color sensor. Josie and her teammate Nylah attended four programming sessions where they learned some more advanced technique. By the end, the robot was capable of (often) completing three missions in the robot challenge.
The qualifier competition had its own ups and downs. The robot did unexpected things, as it always does. But the girls bounced back: they kept programming during breaks between sessions, and the robot performed better in the second round.
We didn’t win any prizes, but when we looked at our scoring rubrics afterward, the project had scored high. They were probably one of the top contenders for a project award. So close!
Since Ferguson-Florissant has decided to close Vogt Elementary next year, and since Jadzia and her friend Jossie are aging out of First Lego League, I’m not sure what will happen going forward.
No matter what happens, it was a pleasure (most of the time) this year watching the team try new things, achieve goals, and just be awesome.