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Mill Creek Robo-Crew take Breakthrough Award at UAH

MADISON – A team without experience in the field devoted their energy to fast-track their skills, and the students’ commitment at Mill Creek Elementary School led to commendation in competition.

Mill Creek Robo-Crew entered the FIRST LEGO League or FLL Qualifier. The Society of Women Engineers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville sponsored the qualifier on Jan. 21.

“There were 18 teams competing. Not all were school teams; some were neighborhood teams,” sponsor Sharon Harris said. A National Board Certified Educator, Harris works as Gifted Specialist at Mill Creek.

Mill Creek Robo-Crew includes fourth- and fifth-graders Rylan Aungst, Davansh Goyal, Adeline Huang, J. R. Kassama, Norah Khammar, Sam Kim, Aaron Machado, London Redmon, Eileen Su and Julius Whitehorn.

“The students were very excited with their performance,” Harris said. “All are first-time robotics team members and have learned a lot.”

“Students build and program a LEGO Spike robot to complete missions on a field of play, which is different every year and tied to the year’s theme,” Harris said. “At competition, they get three 2.5-minute runs and keep their highest score.”

“This year’s theme, “Superpowered,” was focused on renewable energy sources. The problem our team researched and found an innovative solution for was icing of wind turbine blades, which was part of the cause of power outages in the Texas winter storm of 2022,” Harris said.

The competition’s third area, core values, focuses on teamwork and ‘gracious professionalism.’

At UAH, Mill Creek Robo-Crew won the Breakthrough Award, which “celebrates a team that made significant progress in their confidence and capability in both the Robot Game and Innovation Project and is a shining example of excellent Core Values,” Harris said. “They demonstrate that they understand what they discover is more important than what they win.”

In addition, Mill Creek Robo-Crew earned a berth in the 2023 Alabama FLL State Tournament in Fort Payne. Organizers expect 25 teams to compete. “They’re really excited and looking forward to participating in the state tournament,” Harris said.

“Students won’t take tests for a living — they’ll have to be problem-solvers, not only on the job but in all areas of their lives. FLL encourages teams to consult with professionals and experts in the field and share their problem solution with both professionals and the community as possible users,” Harris said. “The FLL innovation project is problem-based learning at its best.”

At a tournament, students work in two pairs, one at each end of the board, to set and run the robot to complete as many missions and earn as many points as possible in 2.5 minutes.

Harris and Kim Barnes work as faculty sponsors and led the innovation project. Will Elliott is their parent coach for robots.

“Robotics and coding are becoming more and more a part of our lives, so they are important skills for these kids’ futures. Someday, some of them may have jobs in the robotics field that don’t even exist yet,” Harris said.

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