Wheeling Jesuit University

Morgantown Team Wins State Robotics Competition Hosted by WJU

WV FIRST LEGO® League robotics tournament is sponsored by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium and the University, with additional support from WVU Extension Service/4-H Youth Development, Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council/Motorola, American Electric Power and LEGO Education.

WHEELING, WV, Dec. 13, 2010 — For the sixth year in a row a team from Morgantown won the West Virginia FIRST LEGO® League robotics tournament.

This year's tournament was held Saturday at Wheeling Jesuit University, the sixth time WJU has hosted the event, which is sponsored by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

The theme of this year's competition was Body Forward—Engineering Meets Medicine. The competitors, ages 9-14, programmed their LEGO robots to perform medical repairs, and the students also researched medical concerns in their communities and proposed biomechanical solutions.

Earning the top spot were the MARS Rovers from Morgantown. Team members are Emily Lederman, Miles Nelson, Andrew Riley, Ethan Scime and Henry Vos. The team is coached by Earl Scime, Jeff Vos, James Nelson and Richard Riley. It is the fourth time a team coached by Scime has won a state championship.

Scime, the Eberly Distinguished Professor of Physics and Chair of the Department of Physics at West Virginia University, was also honored with the Coach/Mentor Award for mentoring numerous FIRST LEGO League teams in Morgantown each year, organizing practice competitions for the teams there and working tirelessly to grow children's interest in science and robotics.

"(The MARS Rovers) showed great teamwork," the judge's notes said. "They took a solution and made it work in ways that researchers are still looking at, with enthusiasm and passion for the science and technology in developing exoskeletons for children."

Placing second overall were the Smarticle Robo Builders, also from Morgantown. They are coached by Frances and Roy Hollinger. Team members are Francisco Anaya, Josh Broadman, Charley Howard, Will Howard, William Johnston and Alan Mizener. Judges noted that "this team presented difficult concepts through an interesting performance and concrete props that illustrated and clearly communicated. Their research solution could reduce pain and increase quality of life for youth with spinal problems."

This year's event was the biggest ever in the Mountain State, with 32 teams made up of more than 250 youth coming to Wheeling. The win by the MARS Rovers earns them an invitation to April’s FIRST LEGO League World Festival in St. Louis.

Founded by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was created to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FIRST LEGO League was created in a partnership between FIRST and the LEGO Company in 1998. More than 48,000 children participate in the program.

In addition to the primary funding from the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium and Wheeling Jesuit University, other contributors are the West Virginia University Extension Service/4-H Youth Development, Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council/Motorola, American Electric Power and LEGO Education.

Besides the overall competition, teams earned awards in specific categories:

Robot Design: 1. Robo-SEALs, Morgantown. 2. Beverly Hills Biomedical Engineers, Huntington.

Research Presentation: 1. Virtual Vikings, Morgantown. 2. RoboSapiens, Huntington.

Teamwork: 1. Beastie Bots, West Union. 2. PyroBots, Martinsburg.

Robot Performance at Table: 1. MARS Rovers, Morgantown. 2. RoboSapiens, Huntington.

The judges, who observed and interviewed the students to determine how well they demonstrated the teamwork skills required for successful research and engineering projects, also bestowed three special awards: The Nordic Cupcakes of Sistersville won the Make a Difference Award for demonstrating how an academic challenge can reach their community in a positive and helpful way. Logan Middle School of Logan won the Dark Ages Design Award for starting only two weeks ago with an old yellow RCX brick, the original model of the LEGO robot (other teams were using the NXT). The RoboLions of Delbarton, a small team of three to begin with, won the Overcoming Adversity Award for being short a team member for the last two weeks but carrying through the competition with only two members.

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