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Morgantown Team Wins State Robotics Competition

Mon Dec 13 2010

Check out more tournament pictures!

Image of Members of the first place MARS Rovers team.
Members of the MARS Rovers team and their coaches, from left, are coach Jeff Vos, Andrew Riley, Henry Vos, Miles Nelson, Ethan Scime, Emily Lederman, and coaches Earl Scime and James Nelson.
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. Dr. Meri Cummings, science resource teacher and lab manager at the Center for Educational Technologies, served as tournament director for the sixth time. 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. Suncrest SEALZ, Morgantown. 2. Beverly Hills Biomedical Engineers, Huntington.

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

Teamwork: 1. Beastie Bots, West Union. 2. PyroBots, Shenandoah Junction.

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.

Plenty of volunteers helped in the tournament\'s success, Cummings noted.
  • David Brooks, the World Festival head referee and emcee for the West Virginia tournament, flew back from Asia the day before the tournament, landing in Washington, DC. The Parkersburg native then made the nearly five-hour drive in snowy conditions.
  • Head referee Steve Scherr braved icy roads to travel from Virginia. Several judges drove from the Charleston, Morgantown, Fairmont, and Pittsburgh areas: Pam Casto, Patricia DePra, Todd Ensign, Norm Kerman, Greg Smith, Jenny Totten, Phil Tucker, and Gene Turchin.
  • Jinnel Chioniere, representative of the FIRST organization, helped keep the teamwork areas organized and secure and presented the state champion trophies.
  • Amy Diznoff served as a teamwork judge while representing tournament sponsor, the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.
  • Rickey Meade from Delbarton, WV (last year\'s Coach/Mentor Award winner) brought an FTC robot to demonstrate. FTC is the next higher level above FIRST LEGO League in the FIRST series of robotics competitions.
  • Jim Smith, the tournament\'s score master for the last several years, earned special kudos for taking on the extra tasks of projecting the scores into the team areas and setting up all projection equipment, including cameras to project the tables, the night before the tournament. He even recruited his father, Russ, as setup assistant and coach!
  • Sharon Morgan and Christine Faulkner were a huge help preparing team and judge notebooks and signs. Morgan also undertook a major portion of the breakdown and cleanup efforts. Faulkner and her children, David and Patricia, helped with building 12 sets of table models for the tournament, along with Girl Scouts Caitlin Reasbeck and Jasmine Shah and community volunteer, Richard Oswald.
  • Oswald and Greg Smith (husband of a Girl Scout administrator) served as judges for a practice tournament for two Girl Scout teams Cummings is mentoring, along with her Virtual Girl Scouts, Reasbeck, Shah, Deryn Martin, and Teresa Woerner (Virtual Vikings team member).
  • WJU staff who judged and otherwise supported the tournament included Helen Faso, Harry Geib, Lisa McFarland, Jane Neuenschwander, Janet Nolan, Debbie Reese, Chris Ruckman, Ralph Seward, Blake Williams, Chuck Wood, and John Yelenic.
  • The WJU computer club members, rounded up by Steven Nowak who works with Reese, also played a major role in setup, breakdown, and photography support. A few also served as table setters: Steven Nowak, Ryan Shubert, Matt Garrison, Corey Matz, Michael McGilton, Cody Skonecy, Anthony Scnelle, Daniel White, Emily Harris, and Michael McGrail.
  • Past robotics workshop attendees served as judges: Amy Pyle of the Girl Scouts; Sandra Soto-Caban, Emre Selvi, and Rob Wilson from Muskingum College; and Scott Abercrombie and Chris Weiler from Follansbee Middle School.
  • Other community members who served as judges or volunteered in other ways include Hannah and Bob Boord, John Clark, Faulkner, Morgan, Caitlin and Kelly Reasbeck, Billy Salvatori, and Linda Vidoni. Other youth who helped with the tournament included Haley Tucker and Ryan Utzman from Morgantown.
  • The staff at Parkhurst Dining Services stayed open an extra day to provide both the main team Pit and practice space and dining for the competition.
  • The Campus Shop and the Café also held special hours for our event.
  • WJU Security opened countless doors countless times.
  • WJU Housekeeping and the physical plant moved tables and hundreds of chairs and worked continuously to keep us looking good.
  • Janet Nolan representing the WJU Charter Guild sold building block jewelry at cost and provided a fun ambience at the entrance to the Troy Theatre.
  • Doug Moore of the Center for Educational Technologies rounded up and moved computers, projectors, and many extension cords to Troy Theater. He also moved the white board into the cafeteria so that everyone in the team pits could see the current scores and rankings.
  • Andrew Harrison of the Center for Educational Technologies made an animated gif of an FLL-flag-waving robot for the tournament blog, created by Chris Ruckman. Cassie Lightfritz and Ryan Mancuso also of the Center helped with graphics. Robert Moore of the Challenger Learning Center and the WJU Professional Education Department shared their areas on Saturday.
  • Video manager Don Watson made one adapter and loaned another to provide table tournament projections to the audience.
  • The center\'s Debbie Piecka helped with the tournament blog, and with help from Ralph Seward and Ruckman, covered and uncovered the tournament mats with heavy tables to help flatten then. Piecka\'s daughter, Lauren Burkey, also helped with setup.
  • Janis Worklan of the Center for Educational Technologies, Keri Brown of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and Maureen Zambito of WJU provided media support.
  • Dave Henderson, stage manager of the Troy Theater, along with fellow WJU employees Eric Mencer and Carla Cash helped with setup and equipment.
  • Chris Scott, a former employee of the Center for Educational Technologies, again made all the nametags for everyone.