Bright Future: Concordia students getting robotic in state competition
Published 12:10 am Wednesday, November 12, 2014
VIDALIA — Concordia Parish Academy students have programmed their way to a robotics competition today in Baton Rouge.
Now, they just have to make sure the machines follow their course.
Ten students will travel to the Louisiana First Lego League Regional Championship event where they will compete with students from 10 to 12 schools from throughout the state.
Email newsletter signup
A portion of the competition consists of a “robot game” where a robot must complete a series of 10 tasks within two minutes and 30 seconds based on a series of coordinates the students have programmed.
Some of the tasks are as simple as getting the robot to push a lever down, but that object might be all the way across a 96-foot table, or “field,” consisting of several obstacles.
The slightest error, seventh-grade student Sydnee Houghton said, can throw everything off.
“I’m kind of nervous thinking I’m going to mess up something big time,” Houghton said. “Sometimes I do well under pressure, and other times I don’t.”
Houghton is one of two students who are on the game team.
Those team members set the robot down on the table each time and tell it which task it should complete by entering a code that triggers the specific programming the students have designed.
Each of the 10 tasks, Houghton said, must be programmed differently and require a different code be punched in on a keypad on top of the robot.
As the students did a trial run of the tasks Tuesday, Houghton celebrated when the robot completed its fifth task before a timer went off in the classroom of the Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology.
That type of response is exactly what science teacher Brandon Rowe said he hoped to see when the students began the robotics program nearly a year ago.
“It’s just very rewarding to see how much they’ve improved and taken to this,” Rowe said. “There’s a problem everyday that they have to work together as a team to figure out, and that’s what this is all about.”
The robots are part of a kit, manufactured by the same company that makes Legos. The students started with a variety of pieces, motors, wheels, sensors and a small computer and learned how to put it all together.
Students then began to program the robots to move, sense and maneuver around obstacles.
But Rowe said the competition today is more about how the robots will compete in the game.
The remaining eight students who are traveling for the contest will give presentations throughout the event to other students from across the state.
Sixth-grader Micha Lawrence, for example, will give a visual presentation on how to shoot a bow.
The idea behind the presentation, Lawrence said, is to use lots of visual aids to help visual learners be able to accomplish any task.
Those students will be scored on their presentations, Rowe said, and the total combined scores of all the presentations plus the results of the game will give the school its final score.
“This shows them that everyone must work together as a team to win,” Rowe said. “Everyone has an important part to play (today).”
The trip will be the school’s first to the competition, so Rowe knows any achievement from the students will be memorable.
“We don’t really know what to expect (today), but that’s not really a bad thing,” Rowe said. “This is a learning experience for sure, but we’re just glad to be going to get this experience.”