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November 14, 2015

More than 250 area students participate in First Southwest Va. LEGO regional tournament

Posted: Saturday, November 14, 2015 11:35 pm | Updated: 12:14 am, Sun Nov 15, 2015.

ROBERT SORRELL | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER

ABINGDON, Va. — Seventeen teams with names like Chaos, Order of the Nerds and Beast Mode Bananas crowded the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center on Saturday to take part in a regional LEGO robotics tournament.

More than 250 students from around the area participated in the Southwest Virginia First LEGO League Regional Tournament.

Each team of students, ages 9-14, built a LEGO robot to solve a set of challenges. Alongside adult mentors, the teams solve problems using engineering concepts, presentation techniques and robots. The goal is introduce and support a robotics based, informal educational program that creates excitement about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM.

Allie Kizer, a 12-year-old participant of the TechGYRLS team from the YWCA of Bristol, is a robot programmer.

“This is our robot EV3,” Kizer said as she explained the team’s robot while waiting for a practice session. “This is actually a new robot that I built this year.”

She pointed out that the robot features two motors.

“The medium motor controls the claw,” Kizer said. “And we have a large motor that controls the robot.”

The robot’s claw can be utilized during the various missions, to pick up and move objects on a table.

This year, the theme for the event is Trash Trek. With the theme, the teams explored the world of trash, including collection, sorting and recycling.

“We’ve ran through the missions a couple of times, but we messed up and I think we can fix it, because we are pretty smart girls,” Kizer said.

The team from the YWCA consists of 10 girls who participate in the TechGYRLS after-school program, which is designed to broaden a girl’s technical knowledge. Kizer said counselors chose the 10 girls based on grades and attitude.

Kizer, who has now participated for two years, said she loves it. She has been working with and training two other programmers on the team.

The competition is not just about the robots, but also how the teams communicate and act during the tournament. The First LEGO League builds self-confidence, knowledge and life skills, which are demonstrated throughout the tournament.

Following Saturday’s tournament, teams move on to the state competition. More than 23,000 children from over 80 countries will ultimately participate in the international program.

Participating teams on Saturday came from Abingdon Elementary School, Virginia Middle School, Morrison School, Sullins Academy, Riverview Elementary and Middle School, University of Virginia at Wise, Bland County High School, Carroll County Middle School, Cornerstone Christian Academy, Scott County 4H, the YWCA of Bristol and others.

rsorrell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2531 | Twitter: @RSorrellBHC | Facebook.com/robertsorrelltn

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