Local Cyber Rays move on in US robot contest

| 29/01/2012

photo (1).JPG(CNS): A team of five students from year 7 and 8 of Cayman Prep High School have competed in a qualifier First Lego League tournament in Clearwater, FL.  The tournament was the culmination of 5 months of hard work by the team and its coaches.  At the end of the all-day event the team's outstanding performance meant that they advanced to the next round with a coveted 'golden ticket' to the regional tournament in Tampa, FL, on February 4.  The event comprised a mission field with almost 20 potential missions to complete within the 2.5 minute round.  The highest score of three rounds was counted. 

The theme changes every year, with this year being a 'Food Factor' challenge involving clearing bacteria, reversing pollution, safe transport of groceries, harvesting of corn, and elimination of virus to name but a few.

The Cyber Ray's also won the trophy for Best Robot Performance, a significant achievement for the rookie team.  The Cyber rays are Josh Martin, Ryan Kirkaldy, Nick Crawshaw, Mike Boucher and Drew Milgate, and the coaches are Allison Smith (Teacher), David Kirkaldy and Jeff Boucher.

Each mission has to be solved by the students using the NXT-G programming language and only Lego parts and sensors.  The Cyber Rays completed 9 missions consistently and successfully.  There are three additional aspects to the event.  The team also has to research, prepare and present a project on the food safety theme, with the Cyber Rays developing a solution to combat milk spoilage.  Secondly, the robot is judged in a technical session to review the process from start to final robot including lessons learned and changes to the programme.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly the team is judged on its understanding of the FLL Core Values, with the key learning point being to always demonstrate 'Gracious Professionalism' and 'Cooperation'.

Robotics is now a part of the curriculum at Cayman Prep High School using the exciting and varied LEGO NXT programmable brick system and accessory sensors.  The school programme got a big boost in June, 2010, when it sponsored Ms. Allison Smith, ICT teacher and now Cyber Ray coach, in completing five days of training at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in Pittsburgh, PA.

The NREC is part of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, a world-renowned robotics organization.  Ms. Smith, like all students at NREC, was surrounded by real-world robot research and commercialization education and introduced to the Lego robots and NXT-G programme as a part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum.  Much of that training has now found its way into the Prep School curriculum. 

"We started informally in September, 2010, as a club for the years 7-9," said Smith.  "In September, 2011, the school introduced robotics into the curriculum for all year 7 students". Cayman Prep High School now has a total of 48 robotics kits (46 Lego and 2 Tetrix kits).

Cayman Prep High School Principal, Sheila Purdom is an enthusiastic supporter of the robotics programmeand delighted at the success the Cyber Rays had at its first international tournament.

"We are also very proud of the Cyber Rays and very supportive of the talent and consistently outstanding effort made by the students, Allison Smith, Jeff Boucher, and David Kirkaldy in preparing for this competition which promotes our gifted and talented ICT students. As the school looks forward to the future, we aim to stay on the cutting edge of educational technology."

Smith added: "It is difficult to teach young students programming techniques as some of the concepts are abstract. The Robotics programme that we offer uses the NXT-G language which allows students to use advanced graphical-based programming tools. The students build their own robots then they write the programs to make the robots work.  In Robotics the programs come alive and it makes a difficult task easier as students are motivated by seeing immediate results."

The First Lego League field kit is a separate kit which you have to pay for when you register for the FLL program.  Jeff Boucher, coach of the Cyber Rays really got the club going by getting the team registered for the Florida FLL qualifier in Clearwater, FL, resulting in the team win and advancement to the regional competition.   FIRST LEGO League is a robotics program for 9 to 14 year olds designed to get children excited about science and technology as well as teach them valuable employment and life skills. FLL can be used in a classroom setting but can also be used by ad-hoc teams, scouting troops, home school associations or other groups of interested kids and committed coaches. Teams are composed of up to 10 children with at least one adult coach.

On February 4 the Cyber Rays will again travel to Tampa, FL, to represent Cayman in the West Coast FLL Regionals.  The progress of the team can be followed on the team blog www.cayprepnxt.tumblr.com
For more info on the contest go to Website – http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/fll

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