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Food Is the Factor in West Virginia Robotics Tournament

Tue Nov 29 2011

RIPLEY, WV — The annual West Virginia FIRST LEGO League robotics state tournament comes to Ripley High School Saturday as competitors program their robots to deal with the contamination obstacles food faces on its way to your stomach.

The theme of this year's competition is Food Factor. The contestants ages 9-14 have spent the fall researching food safety issues and solutions and will present their findings during the research part of the competition. Then their robots will navigate a veritable contamination obstacle course during the table competition. The winning team Saturday may be eligible to compete in either the national or international FIRST LEGO League competition in the spring.

More than 350 youth from 39 teams—more than 1,000 people including team supporters and tournament volunteers—will take part in the state tournament. The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to the public.

Ripley High School is hosting the competition for the first time.

"We usually hold the event at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling," said Meri Cummings, tournament director and lab manager/science resource teacher at the Center for Educational Technologies at the university, "but we wanted to attract teams from other areas, so we moved it south for this year."

The tournament, which is sponsored through a $10,000 grant from the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium, will move next year into a qualifying system in which most states already participate. Qualifying tournaments will be approximately 10-20 teams in size. A certain percentage of teams will advance from each qualifying system to the state championship tournament, with a cap of 24 teams. The championship will return to Wheeling Jesuit next year and may rotate throughout the state, Cummings said.

Opening and closing ceremonies along with all the table competitions with the robots will be held in Ripley High School's main gymnasium, along with robotics demonstrations and the LEGO Construction Zone, where younger visitors can build while the competition takes place. The team pits will be housed in a second gym.

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, Wheeling Jesuit University, and the Center for Educational Technologies, other contributors are Ripley High School, American Electric Power, and LEGO Education.

For more information about this year's tournament and LEGO robotics, visit the NASATalk website and Cummings' blog.

Here are the teams set to compete this year along with their affiliation and hometown:
  1. LEGO Winners, St. Joseph Grade School, Huntington
  2. Neon Noodles, Home School Group, Huntington
  3. Virtual Vikings, Mountaineer Middle School, Morgantown
  4. The Boss Bots, 4-H, Charleston
  5. MARS Rovers, Mountaineer Area RoboticS, Morgantown
  6. The Gadget Guys, Neighborhood Group, Morgantown
  7. Moonatics, Community Group, Morgantown
  8. Rampaging Robots, Home School Group, Morgantown
  9. Laugh Out Legos, Westwood Middle School, Morgantown
  10. Block Busters, Westwood Middle School, Morgantown
  11. Geek Central, Community Group, Morgantown
  12. SMART Stallions, South Middle School, Morgantown
  13. Ice Cold Cubs of WFMS, West Fairmont Middle School, Fairmont
  14. Robo Jaguars, Jayenne Elementary School, Fairmont
  15. Suncrest SEALZ, Suncrest Middle School, Morgantown
  16. Maniac Mechanics, Girl Scouts/Black Diamond, Wheeling
  17. iTeam, Doddridge County Middle School, Clarksburg
  18. Robo-Dogs, Doddridge County High School, Clarksburg
  19. Botcats, Doddridge County Middle School, Clarksburg
  20. Blue Waves, Follansbee Middle School, Follansbee
  21. Team TNT, Country Kids 4-H, Valley Elementary, West Preston Middle School, Arthurdale
  22. H Force, Harrison County 4-H, Bridgeport
  23. Logan Timberwolves, Logan Middle School, Logan
  24. Bridgeport NXT, Bridgeport Middle School, Bridgeport
  25. North Robotics Team, North Elementary School, Morgantown
  26. Fusion Robotics, Fusion Robotics, Bridgeport
  27. Nordic Cupcakes, Girl Scouts/Black Diamond, Sistersville
  28. PROBOTICS, 4-H, South Charleston
  29. The Gizmos, 4-H, Charleston
  30. Lego Pandas, 4-H, Piedmont
  31. Robot Chicks, 4-H, Charleston
  32. Mindstorm Mustangs, Montrose Elementary, South Charleston
  33. Cubs, West Fairmont Middle School, Fairmont
  34. Preston Robotics Is Definitely Epic PRIDE, Preston County Public Schools, Arthurdale
  35. Polka Bots, Girl Scouts/Black Diamond, Moundsville
  36. Deadly Muffins, South Elementary, Huntington
  37. Robocops, Harrison County 4-H, Clarksburg
  38. CyborgEERS, Mountaineer Middle School, Morgantown
  39. Tator "bots", Preston County Public Schools, Arthurdale