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On the Road with Robotics

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Twenty-nine robotics teams from throughout Minnesota joined the regional FIRST® LEGO® League in Minnesota regional competition December 4 in Elk River, Minn., for a chance to advance to the sectional round held Sunday, Jan. 8.

Breck  sent all three of their competitive Middle School Robotics Teams to the meet where they were encountered stiff competition but found great success.

“All three competition teams advanced,” says Kris Simonson, Middle School Robotics coach. “To have even two teams from one school advance to sectionals is unusual because a little under 30 percent of teams advance to the next level.”

The three teams, which included 17 Middle School students, were judged on the three main areas of the competition: Core Values, the Project, and the Robot Game.

All teams began the year preparing for the Core Values portion of the competition.

“We started our season in September by learning the core values of FIRST® LEGO® League,” says Simonson. “It has a lot to do with learning how to be a gracious professional, how to cooperate with teams even when you are competing against them, how to work as a team, how to work with your coaches and mentors, and ultimately to have fun.”

In the "Project” area of competition, teams must identify problems based around the year’s theme, research, and then propose a solution. This year’s theme provided by the FIRST® LEGO® League was Animal Allies.

“Teams needed to choose an animal that has some sort of human-animal interaction at some point in its lifecycle and then learn about any problems that animal may face,” Simonson adds.

Team Mission Moose researched a way to design a better moose tracking collar with more features; Team JiQiRen researched sea turtles and how to prevent them from getting caught in gill nets; and Team Growl researched drone use to protect Pandas from predators.

While these projects may not seem to have a direct tie to robotics, the connection is greater than you might see at first glance.

“The FIRST® organization believes kids should not just be learning technical skills, but they should be learning how to go out into the community and make the world a better place,” says Simonson. “Whether that’s sharing what they’ve learned about robotics or coming up with design and engineering-type solutions, they are still using the same concepts they are using with designing and programming their robots—coming up with a solution, redesigning, and going forward—and applying that to their real-world problems.”

Finally, the teams test their robot programming and capabilities in different challenges.

Each Breck team competed this past Sunday, January 8, in the sectional competition. While none of the teams advanced, the three teams still were very successful.

“All 3 teams had successful days with some personal bests on robot performance and improved project solutions,” says Simonson. “I am so proud of how our students handled themselves throughout the tournament. They kept working on things and all had their heads together—were all there to get better and better as the tournament went on.”

Team awards at the competitions included:


Mission Moose - Best Research Award, Advanced to Sectionals
Team JiQiRen - Advanced to Sectionals
Team Growl - Advanced to Sectionals


Mission Moose – Innovative Design Award
JiQiRen – Core Values Award

Participants in the competition included Team Growl: Andrew Ruiz, Evan Johnstone, Julius Jones, Will Anderson, Arav Saksana, and Samuel Goh; Team JiQiRen: Caroline Pirtle, Lucy Pellant, Abbey Coval, Nell Ganley, and Jess Detor; and Team Mission Moose: Matthew Sigmund, Joshua Goh, Robert Brown, John Cardwell, Jackson Dempsey, and Cade Berman.

Thanks to Breck parent Michael Goh for the robotics pictures!