Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Morris Prokop

ROBOTIC TABLE TALK – First Lego League teams compete at the robotic tables under the watchful eye of the judges at CSSC Mercier in Whitehorse Saturday.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

ROBOT WARS – The FTC robots compete in the ring.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

RADICAL ROBOT – Marc-Andre Gillis eyes a robot during the First Tech Challenge.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

DEEP CONCENTRATION – Mathis Kwan-Teau, right, of the RAM (CSSC Mercier) team works on his team’s robot while Samuel Tatsumi, left, keeps his eye on the clock during FLL action.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

DISTINGUISHED VICTORS – DVG (left to right): Jackson Stavely, Ben McFadyen, Josiah Wilcox, Monica Kazda (kneeling) and Olive Passmore. DVG won the Robot Games award.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

THE CHAMPS – Yukon All-Sparks, Johnathon Crowe, left, and Ethan Janes took home the Champions award.

Faro fares well at First Lego League qualifying championship

A team from Faro fared very well at the First Lego League (FLL) robotics qualifying championship in Whitehorse Saturday.

By Morris Prokop on January 27, 2023

A team from Faro fared very well at the First Lego League (FLL) robotics qualifying championship in Whitehorse Saturday.

The Star checked out all the action at CSSC Mercier, where there were two robotic competitions taking place, FLL and FTC (First Tech Challenge).

Mirusha Heney was a volunteer greeting people at the door. She pointed out a room where the teams prepared for the competition.

“In here is the Pit. That’s where the teams are set up and they have their projects. So each one has a project to do and a robot to work on. So they’ll see what their projects are here and they can win prizes for how detailed, skilled, etc. their project is.

“Starting right now are the robot games over here (a two-table setup by a small stage). It’s two teams competing at the same time on the field and they have 2:30 (two minutes, 30 seconds) to do as many missions as possible and really, they’re against each other, but they’re competing against everybody. It’s more like heats.”

Competitors engaged in three rounds. The highest score from all three rounds counted.

“On the end on the right is the field that’s set up for the First Tech Challenge (FTC) … it’s the older kids and they’ve got their bigger robots. It’s not Lego any more. This (FLL) is Lego.”

Five of the competing FLL teams qualified for the B.C. provincials in Maple Ridge, B.C. Five awards were also handed out at the end of the competition.

One of the competing teams was the Distinguished Victorious Geniuses (DVG) from Del Van Gorder School in Faro, which ranged in age from 11-14. FLL is for ages nine to 14.

The Star spoke with their coach, Lorraine Wilcox, after the first round of competition. She explained how they ended up competing in FLL.

“My son was part of the FLL three years ago before COVID and since COVID has been over, we started up again as an after-school club. We registered with First Lego League and they run this qualifier to go to the provincials. My son is one of the team members but the other ones are all new team members this year.”

Team members include Josiah Wilcox, Monica Kazda, Benjamin McFadyen, Jackson Staveley, and Olive Passmore.

“I think it’s going good,” related Wilcox. “It feels like a very short season by the time you get your missions and your robot built. We were meeting once a week to begin with and quickly changed that to two and three times a week. Part of it is designing a robot to complete missions on the robot table. The other part is finding a problem and a solution that is related to energy. The theme was Energy: how to use a better energy future.”

When Wilcox was asked how she thought the team would do, she replied “It’s hard to say at this point. You think you have it and something else goes awry.

“You learn from there what didn’t go well the first round and try to fix that the next round.”

Wilcox added “It’s a great opportunity for the kids. A lot of them (are) involved in sports as well, but it’s a different activity to be involved in and (has) so many good values.”

Ben McFadyen was one of the DVG members.

“Today we’re doing our Lego robotics challenge. We’ve gone through all the judging and Round 1 of the actual tournament and in about 10 or so minutes we’re going to Round 2.”

McFadyen said they were doing “pretty good” so far.

“We’re in third place in Round 1, so I’m feeling like we’re gonna make it through.”

McFadyen explained how they prepare for the competition.

“We use EV3 robots. We attach multiple cords and motors to it, which let it function. For example, we attach a motor that lets you lift the arms up and down.”

According to McFadyen, sensors which enable multiple functions are also used.

“I’ve been building Legos since I was two and when I saw there was a Lego league, I just thought ‘I might as well join.’”

Asked what he really likes about it, McFadden replied “Probably building the robots. That’s fun.”

Another team member, Olive Passmore, explained their energy-related theme involved “getting the devices and the batteries. You throw out your devices and get the batteries out and they get the lithium out of it and turn that into new batteries.

“Even if your battery is old or doesn’t work that well, you can still get the lithium out of it, cause it’s just the lithium and it’s not the real battery that you’re wanting.”

DVG competed against the French Fries in Round 2. They registered the highest score of the competition to that point, 205 points.

Wilcox reacted to the score.

“Oh, wow! They got all the missions they had planned … plus a bonus mission that they didn’t plan on doing. There’s a circle on the ground and a little blue water reservoir. If you get one into the reservoir, that’s points and I think the robot accidentally hit it in and that’s OK. It feels good when what you’ve planned works.

“It’s exciting. I’m proud of them.

“It takes the pressure off now,” she added.

Speaking of which, DVG’s McFadyen and Kazda relaxed by playing a game of chess, a suitable pastime for these young Geniuses.

Saturday, eight teams took part, including DVG, H20h-Dam!, the Brickbarians, Yukon All-Sparks, YT-FH Collins, MKG (CSSC Mercier), French Fries and RAM (CSSC Mercier).

The RAM team included William Blais, Samuel Tatsumi, and Mathis Kwan-Teau. They said they were doing well in the competition, which took two-three months to get ready for. Following their last run, they were in the top three in the Robot Games competition.

The Yukon All-Sparks, Johnathon Coyne, 14 and Ethan Janes, 12, had a tough break before the robot table games.

“Our robot table left a bit to be desired,” Janes said. “Right before we started, our robot’s gyroscopic sensor, which is our turn sensor, stopped working, which is really annoying.

“If it would have happened yesterday, we could have solved it then … but it was still fun and we got to work through solutions.

“We also got to present, which was lots of fun.”

Coyne added “Sadly, I couldn’t help as much with the problem because I had to do FTC.”

The Star spoke with Wilcox after the action at the robotic table was done. DVG finished first with 205 points. H20h-Dam! finished a close second with 200 points. The Yukon All-Sparks had a strong Round 3 to finish in third with 190 points.

DVG coach Wilcox said, “We have first place for the robotic table but they take the judging from the project and the core values and weigh them all evenly.

“I just feel so good that everything we planned worked in one run. That’s very rare that everything is successful at once. Very exciting.”

McFadyen added “It feels great. It seems like our judging went well, so I hope we can make it to (Maple Ridge).”

After the FLL, the FTC robots entered the fray. Coyne also had a robot in that competition. Unfortunately, he lost a couple of wheels.

“I don’t know what happened. The wheels are not so tight sometimes and you lose a wheel.”

“It happens,” added his buddy Janes.

Coyne did manage to get three cones on the small black objects and seemed to have a lot of fun, despite the wheels’ mishap.

After the FTC, the awards were handed out following a lengthy wait.

Jared Kelso and his sister Jessica did an excellent job of commentary during the robotic games and keeping the kids occupied while they awaited the results from the judges.

“They come from the family that started Lego League in North Bay and turned it into a gigantic North American thing,” related Heney.

Wilcox won the Coach/Mentor award, despite being on crutches.

The judges and her team commented that Wilcox “helped the team to learn how to code, was very encouraging; the students say that ‘this coach tells us to endure, no matter what’. And this coach can be relied upon in trying circumstances, even on crutches.”

An emotional Wilcox said she was “touched. I’m here for them no matter what. They’re such an easy group to be with.”

The Brickbarians – siblings Edan, Isabella and Arie Ganzer, won the Core Values Award.

The judges said “This team worked together and used their unique connections to their advantage. Each team member contributed equally and it is obvious how much fun they had working together.”

MKG, Marc-Andre Gillis, Adrien Gregoire and Paul L’Heureux, won the Innovation Project Award. The judges said “This team had a very innovative and creative idea. Imagine combining a windmill with solar panels. This team was very focused on efficiency and making the most of our resources.”

H20h-Dam! – Asher Johnson, Aira Yoshimura and Sunny Moore, captured the Robot Design Award. The judges said “Congratulations to a team that impressed all the judges with their simple, sleek and elegant robot. Your ability to think through the whole challenge showed through in the efficiency of your robot. We commend your creativity with your gathering arm.”

The biggest award, the Champions Award, went to the Yukon All-Sparks. The judges said “This team delivered a professional and smooth presentation with an innovative idea. Calm in the face of robot issues, kept their composure and supported other teams. The robot is nicely designed with sensors and missions and complexity.”

Coyne and Janes said it felt great to be champions, “especially when the robot game was really difficult but I guess we excelled in the other two (events),” said Coyne.

Janes added “I’m really looking forward to going to Vancouver and I hope we’re able to get together with the H20h-Dam! team and go to a museum or something and do an activity together.”

Robotics North Society President Leanne Watson said they received $64,000 from the First Lego League for the STEM Equity and Inclusion grant.

“We didn’t use it right away because of COVID, so we used it this year, and we started eight new teams in FLL Challenge, three of which were in the communities, two teams in Dawson, one team in Faro.

“And then we also started FTC, which is the high school teams at Mercier, F.H. (Collins) and P.C. (Porter Creek) and that’s growing. And we also started six full classrooms on First Lego League Explore, which is for grades kindergarten to four.”

Watson said more kids take part in Explore, but the teams are non-competitive.

Watson said for the FTC robotics, there are three teams that have gone through to the competition and are working towards one spot at B.C. Provincials in an ongoing competition. And of course the five FLL teams are heading to the B.C. Provincials as well.

“They’ll have a lot of fund-raising to do.”

The FTC B.C. Provincials go Feb. 25 in Surrey, B.C.

The FLL B.C. Provincials take place March 11 in Maple Ridge, B.C.

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