A Lego lesson in robotics

GLENDALE — Student Boris Aguilar adjusted a robot’s movement using computer codes in preparation for a competition Saturday at the FIRST Lego Robotics Tournament at Roosevelt Middle School.

His team programmed the Lego Mindstorms NXT robot’s movements on a laptop computer, which through a wireless signal sent codes to the robot made out of Legos.

Seeing the robot perform as it was programmed came as a great relief to Boris and his teammates because they had been working on the robot for two months.

“It takes a lot of stress out,” Boris said.

Boris was a member of America’s Next Top Scientists Team, which represents Gage Middle School in Huntington Park.

About 22 teams of elementary and middle school students from Los Angeles County competed in the second annual tournament at the school.

But at least two teams couldn’t make the tournament because California Highway Patrol shut down several freeways due to fires in Sylmar on Saturday, said Teacher Randy Kamiya, who organized the event.

Seven or eight teams also were missing team members who were unable to make it to the tournament because of the freeway closures, he said. One group had only one student on the team, Kamiya said.

No Glendale schools participated in the event.

“Our students thought it wouldn’t be fair to the other teams to participate in the tournament because they were the host school,” he said.

The competition is a qualifying event in which 70% of the teams move on to another competition at Legoland in Carlsbad, he said. Teams that do well in the Legoland competition go to a national championship in Atlanta.

“It’s a blast,” Kamiya said.

Roosevelt Middle School automatically qualifies for the Carlsbad competition because it hosted the event.

But before the teams move on to other competitions, they had to meet qualifications in four categories in Saturday’s competition.

The theme of the robotics competition was climate change, so robots had to perform weather-related tasks, such moving a polar bear or picking up minerals and placing them in a coal mine.

“Robots are required to perform tasks on a 4-by-8-foot table,” Kamiya said. “They have two minutes and 30 seconds to complete as many tasks as possible.”

The highest score possible is 400 points.

Teams were judged on their presentation related to climate change, robot design, teamwork and performance, Kamiya said.

“All children must be involved in the entire process,” he said.

The Arcadia Girl Scouts Troop 238, who represent the LOL Comets, practiced six hours a week for two months for the event.

“It gives you the opportunity to be creative,” team member Audrey Chen said.