SPARTA, NJ—Twelve local middle and elementary school robotics teams competed in the Sparta FIRST Lego League or FLL Qualifiers Event at Sparta Middle School on November 23. The Green Hills School Team, coached by Kyle Mirena and assistant coach Alyssa Murphy, earned the Overall Champion Award.

This is the fourth year that the event was hosted by the Newton Robotics Team of Newton High School.

The day was a series of missions teams worked through, scoring as many points as possible as part of this year’s “City Shaper” challenge.

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Teams met with different pairs of judges through the morning to earn points.  They explained their robot design in the Robot Design Room, worked through a challenge that called for teamwork in the Core Values room and explained their unique City Shaper solution in the Innovation Project room.

“The judges were a lot nicer than I originally expected,” one participant said.  “They congratulated us when we were done.”

Rich Holder and Harvey Fein were two of the team of volunteer judges.  Holder from Newton has been judging for three years and it was Fein of Branchville’s first year. 

“There is a lot of work involved for three months,” Fein said.  Both agreed it was a great experience and would continue to volunteer as long as they are asked.

Each team had to identify a problem in their community and develop a solution.  The Sparta team proposed a system of a strip of lights for the side of the road to alert pedestrians to approaching speeding vehicles.  They said the lights would turn yellow or red depending on how much the vehicle was over the speed limit.

“I think our presentation went smoothly,” a participant from the Sparta team said.  “Better than we practiced.”

Other teams’ projects tackled issues including recycling, homelessness, building an environmentally efficient mall with a recreation center, Lake Hopatcong algae bloom and two different pollution solutions.  “There were no overlaps,” Holder said.

After lunch the robots got to work on the 4-by-8-foot tables or game fields set up in the gym.  Teams had two and a half minutes to complete as many missions as possible on the game field. They scored as many points as possible through three rounds of matches to make it to the top of the scoreboard.

The event included a competition for most donations brought to the competition for the benefit of Manna House in Newton, whose mission is "feeding the homeless, elderly, mentally ill, the lonely, the poor, ...and those who fall through the cracks for public assistance."

Green Hills School Team #28805 won the award for collecting the most items for Manna House. They brought everything on the suggested list. Hofmann said they collected a full trailer of food for Manna House.

Event coordinator Hofmann said that Newton teams Green Hills School #28805 and Juggernauts #44414 advanced to compete at Mount Olive.

Hofmann said the event was made possible by volunteers including judges and Mark Meola the Sparta High School robotics coach.  Meola provided a crew of Sparta High School Robotics team who ran the concessions for the day-long event. 

FLL is a global robotics competition where students ranging from fourth to eighth grades design, build and program robots out of Legos to complete several missions for the game using Lego Mindstorms, Lego NXT and Lego EV3 technology. Currently, there are more than 40,000 teams registered across the globe, according to Hofmann.

Following the competition, coaches debriefed their team members on results.

  • Robot Design Award went to Tech Warriors #48629  
  • Project Award was won by team OW! #15153
  • Core Values Award was presented to Byram Middle School's Rambotics #24137
  • Robot Performance Award was won by Juggernauts #44414. This is the team that is the team that had the highest point score during a 2:30 second round match.

Event coordinator Hofmann said that Newton teams advancing to the next competition in Mount Olive were Green Hills School  and Juggernauts.

 Participating Teams:  Robotic overall match performance scores after three matches.

1. Juggernauts #44414

2. Spicy Comrades #45096

3. GHS Robotics #28805 - Green Hills School

4. PRM Robotics #28685

5. Team OW! #15153

6. Hubotics #46754

7. Tech Warriors #48629

8. Sparta HMS #45470 - Sparta Helen Morgan School

9. Robot Rebels #3307 - Lafayette Middle School

10. Wait for it #20884

11. Rambotics #24137 - Byram Middle School

12. Andover Team 2 #13787 - Andover Long Pond School

The Newton Robotics Team is a high school FIRST Robotics Competition team that has proudly served and contributed to expanding science, technology, engineering and mathematics or  STEM education to the community and students since its establishment in 2009, according to Hofmann.

Coached by Hofmann, the program ensures that students in grades nine through 12 are provided with an exploration of 21st-century life and careers with more hands-on opportunities in engineering, science, business, public relations, industrial safety and more.

More information about the team can be found at