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  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Members of the RDP Gold team of Lafayette anxiously wait for their score after competing in the 19th annual First Lego League Robotic Championship on Saturday at the Purdue Fort Wayne Fieldhouse.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Team Holy Legos from Mishawaka release their Lego robot named the Cube of Peace to navigate an elaborate task-based obstacle course in the 19th Annual FIRST Lego League League Robotic Championship at the Fieldhouse at Purdue Fort Wayne on Saturday.  

  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Robot’s team members watch their Lego robot navigate obstacles Saturday.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Joseph Yu of team RDP Gold from Lafayette prepares to release his teams programmed Lego robot to navigate an obstacle course in the 19th Annual FIRST Lego League League Robotic Championship held at the Fieldhouse at Purdue Fort Wayne on Saturday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Jermaih Anderson, left, and teammate Zackary McAllister of River Forest IngBots of Hobart refit and reprogram their Lego robot.

Sunday, December 09, 2018 1:00 am

Students put Lego robots to the test

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Imagine a three-hour ride with eight middle school boys.

That's what it took to get the GMS Robotics team from Greencastle to Saturday's northern Indiana round of the First Lego League championship at the Purdue Fort Wayne fieldhouse.

“That's how dedicated they are,” said their coach, Greencastle Middle School teacher Amy Weliever.

Was the trip worth it? Well, after the first round of competition, the jury was still out.

The team's robot had more than a little trouble negotiating the required tasks, such as capturing and delivering objects to specified locations.

The robot got through just eight of the tasks it was supposed to perform within 21/2 minutes.

“We ran into walls a lot,” said Joseph Hale, 12, the seventh-grader who works with the team's lead coder, Hunter Miller, 13, an eighth-grader.

During a break in the action, the two tried to figure out what to do next, with Hale thinking the table the team was competing on might have been misaligned and not quite level.

“Even a quarter of an inch” can make a difference in how the robot performs, he said.

Nonetheless, the two members of the team – among 47 that competed for a chance to advance to state and national championships – said they liked the opportunity to test their ingenuity in the competition.

The competition drew about 420 students from northern Indiana and about 1,000 spectators for the daylong event, which is in its 19th year, said Carol Dostal, an organizer who serves as outreach coordinator for PFW's College of Engineering, Technology and Computer Sciences.

Three teams – the Paul Harding Astrohawks, the Robocats and The Sith – were from Fort Wayne. Others came from Arcola, Goshen, Huntington, Syracuse and Winona Lake.

“I think in general, kids get excited about robots and kids get excited about sporting events, and this is kind of a sporting event for the mind,” Dostal said.

“It's not just for playing with Legos, although that's fun,” Hale said. “There's a lot of problem solving, too.

“In the world today, there's a lot of coding involved – there's more robots (doing work) and less people,” he added. “So there's going to be a lot of jobs in coding in the future.”

rsalter@jg.net