Carver Programs Robotics Event

Photo courtesy Michael Lin San Marino elementary school students competed for the first time last year at the FIRST Lego League qualifying tournament hosted in Upland. Carver Elementary School will host a similar tournament next month.
Photo courtesy Michael Lin
San Marino elementary school students competed for the first time last year at the FIRST Lego League qualifying tournament hosted in Upland. Carver Elementary School will host a similar tournament next month.

Having joined the organization just last year, Carver Elementary School will host a qualifying tournament for FIRST Lego League in November at which enterprising elementary school students from throughout the San Gabriel Valley will compete in the robotics program’s Into Orbit challenges.
Twenty-one teams are signed up for Carver’s tournament, including a handful from Carver, Valentine Elementary School and Huntington Middle School. Up to 10 students in grades 4-8 can be on a team. Carver’s tournament will be on Saturday, Nov. 10.
“It’s a lot of work; I started in July,” Carver Principal Michael Lin said of preparations for the event. “The schedule has to be fair and distributed evenly, and you have to have enough time for everyone to take breaks. You need volunteers who won’t drop out at the last minute. It’s a major production.”
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) promotes varying levels of robotics and programming, starting with elementary school students and continuing through high school levels. The organization each year sets a theme around which the challenges are designed. Although the highest levels of FIRST involve robots assembled from metal parts and 3-D printing, younger participants simply use off-the-shelf Legos.
Students aren’t just assembling pieces with remote control hardware, either. The yearly theme also dictates the sort of research students must present with their robots. Lin said that with the space-related Into Orbit theme this year, it was helpful that there are a handful of San Marino families who work at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at Caltech.
“They’re not just programming a robot,” Lin said, adding that students listen to a variety of lectures as part of their research. “Their presentation is a large part of their scoring. The judges don’t want kids just reading books.”
The local teams have been busy preparing for this tournament, with Carver opening its doors on Saturdays for the kids to work on their projects and designs. The top teams from the various qualifying tournaments in the region will advance to the regional championship tournament in mid-December.
“Oh, they’re serious about it,” Lin added. “On Sundays, the kids have their own tables set up at home.”
Lin said he was thrilled to host a qualifying tournament on his students’ home turf this year after having to shepherd kids to Upland last year. Other nearby schools also will enjoy the shorter commute to Carver this year.
“Our trip to Upland last year, our kids had to wake up so much earlier and the logistics of getting our parents out there … if there was even one kid missing, that team couldn’t compete,” he reflected. “That was our first year. We didn’t have any experience walking into it. The main thing is the kids having fun. One of the benefits of hosting it is that I get the software and I can do practice tournaments anytime I want now.”
For additional information, visit la-fll.org.

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