Eighteen middle school robotics teams from across Connecticut gathered at St. Mary’s School in Ridgefield to compete in the G.O.T. G.O.A.T. FIRST Lego League (FLL) official robotics qualifier on Nov. 17.

The competition was hosted by Ethan Allen Preparatory new robotics team, Disruptive Technologies (Team #: 7462), and provided an opportunity for six of the top teams to move on to the Connecticut FLL State Championships. The fun, action-packed event was free and open to the public.  

In addition to the main competition held in St. Mary’s gymnasium, each team had to present to three judge panels who scored them on separate criteria: core values, robot design, and project presentation.

The core values panel judged teams based on their ability to work together while treating other teams with respect and promoting healthy competition.

For each team, the robots were judged based on their mechanical design, programming, and strategic components and innovations implemented to give them an edge in the main competition.

Teams were tasked with presenting on something that revolved around FLL’s theme for this year, Into Orbit, and addressing issues commonly experienced in space travel. The students discussed the difficulties that astronauts face, such as isolation and depression and broader topics, such as space debris and how to safely manage it.

Project judge Stefanie Mele said, “Seeing these students come up with their own innovative ways to solve problems in space was truly inspiring…Their presentation abilities were outstanding for their age…These kids were beyond creative and innovative problem solvers.”

The main competition pitted the teams against one another in a series of missions that tested the motor skills and dexterity of their robot. Each mission is built using Legos to replicate potential applications for robots in space travel.

From rescuing astronauts stranded on a spacewalk to delivering rovers to a planet’s surface, each mission provided the teams with varying sums of points. The teams decided what missions would be the most fun and rewarding to complete and then designed, built, and programmed their Lego MINDSTORM robots for those missions.

After the competition, Coach Ellen Bell, who coaches Disruptive Technologies and eight other teams across the state, handed out the awards to the winners of each category in the qualifier.

Team EPIC (#11416) “demonstrated all aspects of the core values in their presentation to the judges.” EPIC received the Core Values Award for their efforts in mentoring younger teams and their encouragement of other teams throughout the competition.

Wilton Robotics (#15640) received the Robot Design Award for the simplicity of their robot’s design. The judges commended Wilton Robotics for their “to the point” engineering and their robot’s ability to “get the job done.” Their team of three displayed “dedication and creative thinking” in their build.

The project judges accompanied the Project Presentation Award with a pun: “Their dancing made us say Gee Whiz. Their skits drove their point home with Force.” Team G-Force (#38722) won the judges over with their creative approach to their presentation.

Team Brainstormers (#23656) went home with both the Up and Coming G.O.A.T. Award and the Robot Performance Award for their high score of 183 in the main competition.

The Champion Award was given to Team Mastermind (#277) alongside a massive trophy and a rhyme from the judges:

“Helping teams bond in the reaches of space,

This team’s robot was far from a disgrace.

In Core Values they shined.

This team was all around truly divine.

Congratulations to this year’s champions the Masterminds!”

Each winning team received a Golden Ticket to the Connecticut FLL State Championship and a Lego trophy that was hand-built by Ellen’s son and Disruptive Technologies Captain, G. Edward, said that his “favorite part was watching the competitors’ reactions to seeing the trophies.”

Brittney Romagna, head of academics at Ethan Allen Preparatory, and Anna O’Rourke, principal of St. Mary’s, were also recognized with their own trophies for their efforts in helping Ellen organize the event. And Ellen surprised her son with a trophy of his own, “You didn’t know you were building your own trophy.”

G.O.T. G.O.A.T. introduced a great new way for the community of Ridgefield and other towns to gather and engage in a day filled with friendly competition and robotics. Ridgefield’s First Selectman, Rudy Marconi, attended the event and stated that “This is the first time that Ridgefield has hosted the Lego Robotics Tournament and hopefully not the last. Congratulations to all participants and especially to robotics team (Disruptive Technologies) …The Town of Ridgefield thanks you.”

For more information, contact  Romagna at 203-577-5847 ext.102.  

For more information on the FIRST Lego League visit http://www.firstlegoleague.org/.