The gymnasium at Meadowview Middle School fairly bristled with both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat Saturday, as 140 middle school students comprising 14 teams gathered for the inaugural county robotics competition.
And the three teams from Pilot Mountain Middle School made it known that they are a force to be reckoned with in a competition that was filled with palpable tension.
Ultimately, the Pilot Mountain Middle School “Pegasi” (think of Pegasus, but plural) was named the overall champion after several close calls.
Pilot Mountain Middle School’s “Programmers” team took home the Core Values Trophy. The trophy for Research was won by Central Middle School’s “M.A.R.S.” team. The Robot Design award went to Pilot Mountain’s “Robotic Ravens” team.
The “Programmers” team from Pilot Mountain Middle School took home the High Score Award.
Gentry Middle School’s “Imagineers” team won the Judge’s Award.
The competition was made up of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from the county’s middle schools.
Meadowview fielded two teams, while Pilot Mountain Middle School brought three teams to the event. Central Middle School fielded four teams, while Gentry Middle School took three teams to the event. Mount Airy Middle School fielded two teams.
The competition features students building and programming LEGO robots to complete any number of 14 different tasks in a competitive ring. In addition to programming and designing their robots, the teams must complete a research project and be able to demonstrate core values like teamwork, leadership and initiative.
The teams, who have been working on the competition since the beginning of the school year, presented oral presentations in the morning, with the head-to-head robotics competition getting under way in the afternoon.
Mount Airy Schools Superintendent Dr. Greg Little said the event helps to foster real-world skills.
“When I think about the skills that students will need to be successful, I think about the ability to research, collaborate and tackle unique problems,” he said. “The First Lego League provides students with a chance to enhance all of those skills in new and exciting ways.”
Looking over the competition from the floor Saturday, Little said he was in awe of the level of competition.
“It would take me a year to do what they’ve done in a few hours,” he said with a laugh.
This year’s event is the result of the collaboration between the public and private sector. Corporate sponsors of the event included SouthData, Inc.; Renfro Corporation; NCFI Polyurethanes; Insteel Industries, Inc.; Northern Hospital of Surry County; and Advanced Electronic Services, Inc. In addition, the Surry County Economic Development Partnership supported the effort.
Todd Tucker, president of the partnership, said he has been asked why his organization would offer financial support to playing with Legos.
“Because this is real-world stuff these kids are doing, and education is economic development,” he said.
And will there be another competition next year?
The answer came over the loudspeaker, barely audible above the raucous competition.
“The proceeds from this year’s concessions go toward next year’s competition.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.