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Robot games: Lego League final draws teams to Waccamaw High

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The Robo Renegades of Waccamaw Intermediate School made it to the East State Championship of the FIRST Lego League. Thirty-two teams and supporters filled Waccamaw High for the competition on Saturday. They designed robots from Lego Mindstorms kits to carry out missions focused on interaction between humans and animals. Teams were judged on their robot design and performance along with a project they developed to aid animals and how well they exhibited the program’s core values of teamwork and “gracious professionalism.”

Molly Stover, right, watched the referee for a signal to start the two-and-a-half minute robot competition in the Waccamaw High gym. Of 15 tasks, teams have to pick those that earn the most points in the time allowed and design their robot to complete them. The Robo Renegades aimed at 104 points. Their best score in three tries was 54.

“We scored more in the first round than we did at the regional, so we’ve already achieved our goal,” said Becky Anderson, who coaches the team with Beth Goude.

Cameron Conard, above, kept his fingers crossed as he waited for the results to come in. Each of the eight team members took turns working with the robot, which had to return to base at the end of each task. Each round took place on a different 4-by-8-foot table to account for varying conditions that affected performance.

When the Robo Renegade, the robot as well as the team name, got stuck during its final attempt, disappointment flashed across the faces of Jase Goude, above left, Nate Giltmier, Luke Kibler, Holden Gulley and Cameron.

Teams dress up for the FIRST Lego League competition. Beth Goude looked for some funny hats for Waccamaw Intermediate’s Robo Renegades. “After a while, they become a distraction,” she said. But Luke Kibler, left, got to wear a Lego bow tie to present their project to the judges.

Robot design was the first event for the Robo Renegades. “It was good, but I was a little nervous,” said Nate Giltmier, carrying the robot in its case, above. The judges asked the team about their design process and their goals, below.

To show how they used core values, the Waccamaw team broke into song (set to the “Gilligan’s Island” theme). It seemed to impress judges Ginger Catoe, in black, and Kinsey Mayberry. They asked the team to perform a charade with zoo animals to assess their teamwork skills.

Saving albatross from fatal tangles with long-line fishing rigs was the goal of the Robo Renegades’ project. Luke Kibler explained how lures that look like tiger sharks would keep the birds away as Blake Nash and Molly Stover held up a prototype. The team presented the idea in the form of a TV talk show.

After the judging, teams put their robots to the test. Ally Douglas took the Robo Renegade from its carrying case to start the race with the clock.

There is a NASCAR feeling to the state competition, said Louis Rubbo, state coordinator for FIRST Lego League, which promotes education in the STEM skills of science, technology, engineering and math. A member of the Robo Knights from Rollings Middle School of the Arts cheered her team with a megaphone.

Schools aren’t the only sponsors of teams. The EngiDeers of Hanahan won the East State championship and a trip to the world championship in Houston. The community team of four girls was coached by Doug Rogers, above, who wore a tutu and antlers.

The referees, like all the participants in FIRST Lego League, are volunteers. But they share in the fun. M.K. Baldwin, above, added zebra ears and a tail to her jersey.

Robots are the heart of the event. The Legosaders of Christ Our King-Stella Maris School in Mount Pleasant earned the most points in the robot games with a round of 165. They brought their robot to the floor in a metal case.

In bringing the championship to Waccamaw High, Rubbo hoped to inspire more schools and groups in Georgetown County to participate in coming years.

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