Four Livingston Robotics (LRC) teams won awards in the regional FIRST LEGO League (FLL) qualifiers on November 19 and December 3, with three of these teams advancing to the NJ FLL State Championship in Mount Olive on December 10: Exit 5 Robotics, Supreme Machine and Alpha Force Reloaded.

FLL is an international robotics competition designed for children ages nine to 14. In addition to creating and programming a LEGO Mindstorm robot to run a mission course in two and a half minutes, the teams also must learn about the FLL theme of the year, which in 2011 is “Food Factor.” Teams are subject to various judging on their research projects, FLL, Core Values, robot design and impromptu interviews.

Since September, all of the LRC teams have been busy preparing for various FLL qualifying events throughout the State. Most highly anticipated event was the pilot FIRST LEGO League qualifier took place at the Liberty Science Center where 12 teams competed. The organizer of this event was Pearl Hwang, president of the LRC, along with team Landroids hosting this first-of-its-kind FLL qualifier in the science museum.

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“We wanted to try a different and interesting venue for the kids,” says Hwang. “The result was an overwhelming success, establishing the Liberty Science Center as a qualifying site for FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge in the future. Their support of children’s love for robotics was an energizing experience for all involved.”

Hwang earned a special award as the Volunteer of the Year at the Liberty Science Center Event.

On December 3, LRC team Exit 5 Robotics performed admirably with the overall Champion's Award and 1st place Robot Performance Award.  Team members, consisting of fifth and seventh graders, are: Alice Huang, Evelyn Huang, Chloe Lam, Stephanie Tam, Flora Xia, and Wendy Xia, who took turns operating the robot at the competition table.  After the first round, the team was in 7th place.  With some quick thinking, the team made mechanical changes and programming changes to bring the robot to 1st place by the second round, which ultimately held the top spot through the final round.  Their research project focused on the problems of cross contamination and salmonella prevention in the chicken cooking/preparation process.  The team spent the summer researching the problem and their proposal of an innovative solution incorporated an automated UV-C light based cleaning system for cutting boards and knives. 

Rookie team “Power Legends,” with Austin Chase, 9, Jack Tokuda, 9, Brandon Wade, 14, and Cooper Takach of Florham Park, went to the qualifier, their first, with a couple of goals: have fun and do your best. What happened at the event was that the Power Legends’ enthusiasm was contagious.  

The highlight of the day for the Power Legends was when the four boys won the prestigious Judges’ Award, which this year awarded to the team with the Most Potential, with the judges noting the team members’ perseverance, improvising, team spirit and a great attitude.

The Power Legends is mentored by team Landrias, a member of team Landroids and Pearl Hwang, plus coached by Dorian Bailey and Maureen Chase. The team began late in the season and decided from the start to enjoy learning about robotics and the FLL theme, and to follow the FLL Core Values, which are, above all, to have fun.

“One of the judges after the awards ceremony said to me, ‘you should be very proud of these boys, and how far they came in so little time’’’, says Co-coach Chase. “She said, ‘yours is the team we’ll be watching in the future!’ We are immensely proud of the boys, their stamina to the very end, and overwhelming enthusiasm despite the fact that they were competing mostly against older children, many in middle school, and far more experienced. They never even noticed potential obstacles because they just had a good time!”

“We are most fortunate to have the support of the LRC, Pearl Hwang and the girls from team Landroids and Landrias, who mentored these boys and dedicated their weekend hours to team meetings,” says Chase, “as well as Alan Karpas of HCHY for his assistance and Eastman Management who provided for the LRC teams a club house space for practice.”

Many other FLL qualifiers were held earlier on November 19 throughout NJ. At the Clifton High School qualifier, the five team members of “Supreme Machine,” were “exhilarated” to take home First Place Robot Performance and First Place Robot Design, as well as currently holding the highest published robot scores of 208 in NJ. What helped make possible of Supreme Machine’s great performance were the tireless efforts of the robotics coach Howard Tang, the veteran project coach Stephanie Bash-Soudry, the overall coordinator Jannie Zheng, and guidance from Livingston Robotics Club. 

The qualifier was held at Clifton High School with 21 other teams competing. The Supreme Machine gave it their best, since most team members are in eighth grade; this is their last season in FLL.

Alpha Force Reloaded also competed in the Bergen regional qualifier on November 19. They took First Place in Robot Design.  Alpha Force was “reloaded” with a lot more members this year. This enrichment team is comprised of a group of friends in 3rd grade and a group of friends in 7th grade.  The 3rd graders worked on the research project and came up with innovative ideas for their solutions and presentation while the seventh graders worked more on the robots. 

“Although each had various tasks,” says Coach Janea Agbayani, “the teammates all discovered that with teamwork, commitment and enthusiasm, they can make things possible!”

The LRC rookie team Technome also participated in the Clifton qualifier did a great job and had a good experience. Meanwhile, team Landrias, an all-girl state-championship winning FLL team of LRC, decided not to compete this year, and instead took on new roles as mentors and event volunteers for the FLL program.  The girls volunteered at the Metuchen practice tournament on November 13 and Liberty Science Center regional qualifier on December 3.  FLL team Astro Boys did not compete this fall.

On Saturday December 10, LRC teams Alpha Force Reloaded, Exit 5 Robotics, and Supreme Machine will competed in the all-day NJ FLL State Championship at Mount Olive High School in Flanders. Three Junior FLL teams from LRC, Brain Builders, DragoBots and MIGO Ranbots also participated in Jr.FLL Expo for children ages 6-9 which is coincided with the FLL Championship event and held at the same location.

Meanwhile, the world-championship winning FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team Landroids, also played an important roles in the NJ FLL community throughout the season.  Members of Landroids kickoff and mentored a rookie FLL team from Orange Preparatory Academy and within LRC, trained and worked as the FLL referees and robot floor judges at the Metuchen practice event and the Liberty Science Center qualifier.  Later this week, the team again volunteered at the NJ FLL State Championship.

Landroids is the only FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team within LRC, consisting of six 10th-grade high school students. Landroids in its second year in FTC division has already received the prestigious Inspire Aware and Winning Alliance Captain at the Marlton FTC Qualifier to advance to New Jersey FTC State Championship in February 2012. The team also spent its Thanksgiving weekend mentoring four rookie FTC teams for a day to get those teams’ robots ready for the upcoming qualifiers.

For more information, please see the LRC web site: www.livingstonrobotics.org