Lego competition sends students into orbit

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During the final robot match for Smart Fun Engineers' Cole Martin, from the private school Smart Fun Learning Adventures in Farmington, leans over for a closer look at the Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday. Beside him at right is teammate Evan Thomas. (Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

AUGUSTA — Teams from Farmington and Kennebunk took home the top awards in the state robotics championship Saturday. Joel Pike from Jay received the volunteer award.

Forty-four teams participated in the Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship at the Augusta Civic Center.

In FIRST Lego League, students ages 9 through 14 design, build and program Lego Mindstorm robots to compete on a 4- by 8-foot table. The competition challenges kids to think like scientists and engineers.

This year’s challenge was titled “Into Orbit,” in which teams performed a set of space missions.

Teams had to choose and solve a real-world problem relating to space exploration. Each team gave a five-minute presentation on their solution.

Team Smart Fun Engineers from the private school Smart Fun Learning Adventures in Farmington, came in first for the robot matches, won the playoff match and earned first in the Champions Award in the Maine FIRST Lego League State Championship at the August Civic Center on Saturday. (Pam Harnden/Franklin Journal)

Smart Fun Engineers, the team from the private school Smart Fun Learning Adventures in Farmington, won first in the champions award, had the highest score in the robot mission matches and won the playoff round.

Veazie Vikings Robotics from Veazie Community School took second place in the robot mission playoffs.

Kennebunk Recreation teams Those Stellar Guys and Astro Llamas placed second and third, respectively, in the champions award.

Cosmic Companions from South Paris received first place in strategy and innovation.

Two teams from Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay won the programming awards. In first place was The Astronutz. Taking second was SMASA.

Rob Taylor is coach of the Spruce Mountain teams. Students from the Spruce Mountain High School robotics team SMART mentored the middle school teams.

“The SMART kids have a lot of experience coding,” Taylor said. “They did a great job helping the middle school kids with programming. The kids used sensor feedback on their robots which required coding.”

Taylor brought four teams to the Augusta championships. At the completion of the robot matches, all four teams were among the 14th-highest scoring teams.

“It’s been a really good day. The kids were competitive. Each team improved since the qualifier three weeks ago. I’m really pleased. The kids are having fun,” Taylor said.

Smart Fun Engineers coach Sheena Thomas said, “I’m so excited for them! They were the highest-scoring team here last year and have had first robot and chairman’s award the last three years at the qualifier in Jay.”

Before their final robot mission match, Engineers’ member Ava Ryan said she felt pretty good. Teammate Mariah Johnson said the robot had been working well.

Smart Fun Engineers have been invited to compete at the World FIRST Lego League Championship. It will be held in Detroit, Michigan, in April.

At the FIRST LEGO League Maine State Championship held in Augusta on Saturday, Joel Pike of Jay received the volunteer award. He is seen with his award, made from LEGOs, while getting high fives from judges and referees at the event. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

Pike also received the volunteer award at the Maine FIRST LEGO League Western Maine Qualifier held Nov. 17 in Jay.

His wife, Kathleen Pike said, “He so deserves this. I can’t tell you the hours he’s put into this. He was on the planning committee and helped plan qualifiers in Limestone and Jay as well as the state competition.”

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net