Mesquite Elementary robotics team “The Sharks” was one of eight robotics teams who will advance to compete at the 2017 FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) HYDRO DYNAMICS. New Mexico Region Championship following the November 18th annual FLL Qualifier at Onate High School in Las Cruces.
The tournament gives students lessons in engineering by creating something, making mistakes, and learning to move forward with better solutions. The teams are also judged by their regard to the LEGO League’s core values, which include “coopertition,” a combination of cooperation and competition, and “gracious professionalism,” which means they encourage and support each other and their fellow teams.
During the Robot Game teams competed in three 2.5-minute matches and their highest score counted. Two teams at a time ran their robots at adjacent tables while judges and spectators watched intently.
Russell Husson-Matter, special education teacher at Mesquite Elementary, started the FIRST program at his school with the support of his principal, Angela Silvaggio, because he believes in what FIRST is doing. According to Husson-Matter, “FIRST is an opportunity for our students to put into practice what they are learning in school and take it to the next level by exploring things they find interesting. FIRST reports that among those who participate in the program, communication skills improve in 76% of students and problem solving, time management, and conflict resolution skills improve in over 90% of participants.”
“I have seen these gains first hand in my own students,” continued Husson-Matter. “Confidence levels in their own abilities have risen to new heights. Some of my special education students from last year have moved on to middle school and are now on the A/B honor roll in general education classes. These students all have the potential for greatness, they just need someone to believe in them, to let them know that they can do anything, and that their contributions to the world can and will make a difference.”
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) conducts the largest robotics competition in the world. FIRST LEGO League teams are made up of 2 to 10 students with 2 or more adult coaches. The teams research a real-world problem such as food safety, recycling, energy, and so on, and are challenged to develop a solution. They also must design, build, program a robot using LEGO EV3 MINDSTORMS®, and then compete on a tabletop playing field.