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Morgantown Youths Repeat as State Robotics Champs

Wed Dec 7 2011

Members of the MARS Rovers are, from left, coach Jeff Vos, Henry Vos, Emily Lederman, Ethan Scime, coach Earl Scime, Miles Nelson, and Andrew Riley.RIPLEY, WV—The MARS Rovers from Morgantown captured the West Virginia FIRST LEGO® League state championship, its second consecutive title at the state tournament.

This year's tournament was held Saturday for the first time at Ripley High School and featured 36 teams and total attendance of more than 1,100. The event is sponsored by a $10,000 grant from the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium along with assistance from the Center for Educational Technologies and Wheeling Jesuit University. The theme of this year's competition was Food Factor. The competitors, ages 9-14, researched food safety issues and tried to solve a contamination or spoiling problem. Then they programmed their robots to navigate a veritable contamination obstacle course during the table competition.

Members of the winning MARS Rovers are Emily Lederman, Miles Nelson, Andrew Riley, Ethan Scime, and Henry Vos. The team is coached by Earl Scime and Jeff Vos. The 2011 title is the fifth won by a team coached by Scime, the Eberly Distinguished Professor of Physics and Chair of the Department of Physics at West Virginia University.

The judges' notes said of the MARS Rovers, "This team is out of this world—a planet to themselves."

Earning second place overall were the Virtual Vikings of Mountaineer Middle School in Morgantown. They are coached by Cathy and Brian Woerner and mentored by Jerome Pender and Stephen Woerner. Team members are Anthony Chen, Ryan Hall, Cassie Harvey, Bradley Pender, Brooke Price, and Teresa Pender. Judges said, "This team explored all aspects of the competition."

Christine Faulkner of Glen Dale received the Outstanding Volunteer Award. She has been a research project judge for the last six years. She was recognized for taking the lead in preparing judge paperwork and involving her entire family in sorting and building table models for the last three years. She hopes to judge at the FIRST LEGO League World Festival in April.

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.

Meri Cummings, tournament director and lab manager/science resource teacher at the Center for Educational Technologies, said this year's tournament was the biggest ever. The 1,100 attendees includes 296 team members, 632 supporters, 72 judges, referees, scorekeepers, and other technical and logistical volunteers, among them 20 Logan County and 10 Ripley High School students and three staff. Next year the tournament will begin with four or five qualifying events located throughout the state, from which a specific percentage of winners will advance to the state championship. Next year's championship is expected to return to Wheeling Jesuit, where it had been held the six previous years.

In addition to the primary funding from the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium and Wheeling Jesuit University and the Center for Educational Technologies, other contributors are Ripley High School, American Electric Power and LEGO Education.

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

Robot Design—Mechanical: Robo-Dogs, Clarksburg.

Robot Design—Programming: Suncrest SEALZ, Morgantown.

Robot Design—Innovation/Strategy: Bridgeport NXT, Bridgeport.

Research Project—Research: Team TNT, Arthurdale.

Research Project—Innovative Solution: SMART Stallions, Morgantown.

Research Project—Presentation: Neon Noodles, Huntington.

Core Values—Inspiration: Geek Central, Morgantown.

Core Values—Gracious Professionalism : H Force, Bridgeport.

Core Values—Teamwork: Moonatics, Morgantown.

Robot Performance at Table: 1. Geek Central, Morgantown. 2. MARS Rovers, Morgantown.