Tag Archives: FLL Robotics

Robotics: The Sequel

As I robotically went through a press release regarding last weekend’s First Lego League robotics competition — in which the Mechanical Masterminds took 1st place in 2 areas of the competition — my post this morning did not give enough props to Westport’s other middle school entrant, Team SNAP.

They placed 2nd overall in the entire state — and took home the Champions Award. According to the FLL website, this is

the most prestigious award that an FLL Team can win….It measures how the team members inspire and motivate others about the excitement of science and technology, solve problems, and demonstrate respect and gracious professionalism to everyone involved in the competition.

Earning the Champions Award excludes a team from some of the category awards, enabling other groups to earn recognition too.

The Team SNAP robot.

The Team SNAP robot.

FLL teams are judged in 3 areas: Core Values (inspiration, teamwork and “gracious professionalism”); Project (research, innovative solution and presentation), and Robot Design (mechanical design, programming and strategy  and innovation). The Champions Award is given to the teams with top scores in all 3 areas.

In addition, SNAP coach Terry Sauer received the Adult Coach/Mentor award at both the regional competition and the state final.

Westport’s 2 middle school teams were thrilled to compete. Each cheered the other on.

As their respective robots crushed everyone else.

Middle Schoolers Rack Up Robotics Titles

Following the path blazed by Staples High, Westport’s  middle schools’ robotics team snagged 2 first-place medals at last weekend’s First Lego League state championship, held at Central Connecticut State University. They also picked up cash, from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The boys — yes, unfortunately, they’re all male — topped nearly 200 teams to win both the Robotics Performance and Robotics Programming categories.

It’s an impressive accomplishment for 12- and 13-year-olds. The event is technically difficult, and highly competitive. They worked for months after school, researching, designing and programming their robots. (They also have many other activities — 7 of the 9, for example, play soccer.)

The winning robot.

The winning robot.

What makes the gold medals even more impressive is that their coaches — Steve Diorio and Mike Durkin — know absolutely nothing about robotics or programming. The boys teach themselves, by reading and watching YouTube videos. The adults basically say, “Way to go, guys.”

There’s one more intriguing element to this story. Despite Westport’s now-global reputation in high school robotics — Staples’ team has won a world championship — there is no high school robotics course. There’s no corporate sponsorship of the club (which itself does not even have formal status).

The Middle School Robotics Club — now in its 2nd year — marks the first formal school system support of the activity.

The 1st-place team is called the Mechanical Masterminds. Members include Coleytown 7th graders Nick Ambrose, Rob Diorio, Nicholas Durkin, John McNab, Daniel Westphal, Josh Zhang and Andy Zhang, and Coleytown 7th grader Justin Schmidt and 8th grader Sunil Green.

A 2nd Westport middle school group — Team SNAP — took home the 2nd place Champions Award. They’re completely independent. Members include Coleytown students Theo Davis, Dan Kleine, Nathanael Metke, Kiran Nandagopal and Luke Sauer. The coach is Terry Sauer.

Congratulations to all the young champions. And their robots, too.

The Masterminds and SNAP robotics teams.

The Masterminds and SNAP robotics teams.