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RCMS students take home second place at contest

Eight talented young students from Rosemary Clarke’s robotic team won honors at a Las Vegas robotic competion on Dec. 3.

The middle school robotic team took second place at a contest at West Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas among 26 other teams.

The RCMS team consisted of the following members: Zach King, Zoe King, Jacob Rhodes, Faith Patterson, Amber Patterson, Dylan Riendeau, Michael Graziano and Raven Gonzales.

Adam Lightfoot, a teacher at RCMS and Eric Kunzi, a teacher at J.G. Johnson Elementary School are the advisors of the team, which meets after school at the middle school twice a week.

“This is open to all the middle school kids here at school and so little actually take advantage of this,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said Lego started this program and partnered with other organizations to inspire kids to get into robotics two years ago. Lego then set up a league to allow kids to compete. A company called First Engineering partners with Lego in this project.

“The kids do a lot of tinkering, design, and programming in this league,” Lightfoot said. “The kids also research problems and give presentations in order to win the trophies.”

This program was started by teacher Eric Kunzi two years ago.

“My mother, who teaches at Rosemary Clarke school took me aside and said, ‘You’re a nerd, why don’t you start this at the after-school program?’”

Kunzi said the program was all funded by an after-school grant.

The kids compete in events like sportsmanship, presentation and then there is also a skills-based competition where the students have to program robots and improve on their design for points.

In their presentaion they research and present a theme to try to find ways that humans interact with animals. They had to improve on that interaction.

They chose the desert tortoise and chose to come up with a device to make life easier for this interaction.

He said the kids had to research a real world problem and then present solutions to that problem.

“This year’s theme was ‘Animal Allies’,” Lightfoot said. “The kids researched a problem that had to do with how people and the desert tortoise interacted and the problems related to this interaction.”

In this case the kids found that a common problem with the tortoise was getting crushed on the road by cars.

“They chose an app that would interact with a phone and a car,” Kunzi said. “The car would have a sensor and would sense a tortoise under the car. The sensor would interact with your phone and you would be able to call the Department of Wildlife to move the tortoise.”

The second place showing means the kids get to go to another competition on Jan. 28. In the next competition they will have to expand on this and maybe even program it.

The team members also had to get robots to complete tasks. Each team has a giant robot game board. On the board were various missions the robots had to complete. Lego provided the robots and the students had to then program and improve the robots. The students had to program the robots to best complete the task and were rewarded points for the completion of the tasks.

Zach King, a team member and seventh-grade student, said his team made small improvements to the programming.

“Just small improvements could mean a lot of points,” he said. “We get three rounds and each round you try to get as many tasks as possible.”

Dylan Riendeau, an eighth-grade team member, did a lot of the programs.

“The robot has an interface and we can assign what task it does,” Riendeau said.

“The main problem is to make the task simple,” King said.

Kunzi said the kids were really excited about the win.

“We waited throughout the entire awards for them to call our name,” he said. “They went through all the awards and the kids were down, thinking that this year they didn’t get anything like last year. But to their surprise we were like the last ones called and we got second place.”

Contact reporter Vern Hee at vhee@pvtimes.com

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