Alfred is one determined robot.
The programmable multi-colored Lego “bot” nimbly moves throughout a game field where it flips a ball into a net, shuts a door and pushes a lever that moves it precisely 90 degrees to the right.
Huddled around the game field are eight students from Emmons Lake Elementary who stare intently at Alfred as if it was the first time they ever watched its maneuvers. It’s not. The “Where’s That Piece?” team — so named because the students always seemed to be in search of a particular Lego piece — started working with Alfred in early September to get him to scamper across the game field just the way they want it to.
They’ve been rewarded for their hard work.
The Caledonia team includes Emmons Lake fifth-graders Spencer Chapp, Ryan Doan, Grant Peek, Rahul Hoque, Madelyn Kosiorowski, Collin Witvoet, Adam Stearns, Colin Pearson and Kraft Meadows Middle School seventh-grader Ryan Stearns.
Lots of firsts here
The students recently competed for the first time at the FIRST Lego League regional tournament at Grandville High School. Even though they’re a rookie team, “Where’s That Piece?” team earned first place in the research project presentation and fourth overall against 47 other teams made up of students in fourth through eighth grade.
In addition to the robot contest, the regional competition included a skit that demonstrated how to solve a problem. The “Where’s That Piece? team made a fishing “rocket rod” made of two PVC pipes that shoots a bobber and hook out canon-like using a contraction spring attached to it.
“All of us agreed the hardest thing to figure out is how to cast,” said Spencer. “We wanted to make it easier for someone to cast.”
Their dedicated work qualified them for the First LEGO State Championships held at Carman-Ainsworth Middle School in Flint where the Caledonia team scored 20th out of 49 teams in the robot game.
“We beefed up the robot for the state competition so the wheels would help it go faster and make it so it would turn corners quicker,” said the team’s project and core values Coach Stephanie Pearson.
What’s it all about?
LEGO Education supports FIRST Lego Leagues, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring students to consider early in their lives STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through robotics competitions.
After-school Lego Leagues steers students to learn what effective teamwork, problem solving skills and respect for others is all about while having out-and-out fun.
Alfred was “born” from Lego Mindstorms EV3 set. It’s a kit that contains software and hardware to create customizable, programmable robots. They include an intelligent “brick” that creates a specific program by dragging and dropping the desired “blocks” into software that determines Alfred’s twists and turns.
Colin enjoys the challenge of programming Alfred.
“I like the drag and drop programming a lot,” said Colin. “The block serves a different purpose than the motors and stuff. Each block serves a different purpose.”
“We kept adding different missions,” added Adam. “We definitely improved on working off other people’s ideas.”
That meant enhancing Alfred’ performance abilities.
“I didn’t really like how it steered because it had only two wheels,” said Grant. “So we added two more wheels and a ball joint so it made it more controllable.”
Yes it’s heady stuff and the young students clearly understand what it all means.
“I really like building Legos,” said Madelyn. “I like architecture and planning houses so getting to design a robot is great.”