By Ed Runyan
The awards ceremony for Saturday’s FIRST LEGO League robotics competition for middle-school students made it clear that this competition gives equal weight to good citizenship as much as competition.
One of the first awards given at the awards ceremony was the Gracious Professional award, given to dozens of Saturday’s participants at the competition at Girard High School.
“These folks were caught doing something nice, gracious, respectful or helpful today,” master of ceremonies Judy Barber of Girard High said.
The Judge’s Award is given “for perseverance in the face of adversity,” while the Project Award is for the team that best researches a specific type of community disaster and “develops an innovative solution to the problem, and shares their solution with their local community.”
Another is the Core Values Award, which goes to the team that “demonstrated exemplary teamwork and gracious professionalism while they were inspired and/or inspired others.”
And all through the awards competition, organizers used high-spirited music and a high-five attitude to celebrate the talents and achievements of this year’s participants.
But this still is a competition, and 15 teams traveled from as far away as the Cleveland area to compete.
Each team prepared for several months, designing and building a robot using LEGO Mindstorms kits and LEGO parts, then competing Saturday with their robot on a 4-foot-by-8-foot competition table.
The competition’s Ambassador’s Award winner — the Slightly Different team from Aurora — was one of four teams to advance to the next level of competition Jan. 11 at Austintown Middle School.
The Ambassador’s Award honors the team that uses “wisdom and courtesy” and spreads the message of the FIRST competition “beyond their community.”
The three other teams advancing are from Pepper Pike, North Canton and the Mad Scientists Team from Austintown Middle School, which received the First Place Champion’s Award.
David Varley III, an eighth-grader from the Mad Scientists, demonstrated his excitement during the awards ceremony when his team finished first, but said the relationships are just as important.
“For the past two years, [the best part was] meeting the other teams and creating partnerships that last a long time,” he said. His team made it to the district competition in Akron last year, but he wants to win it this year.
“What I really like is communicating with other teams [from Austintown] and communicating with teams from other cities,” said Robert Malizia, also an eighth-grader from the Mad Scientists.
“It’s interesting to see the things they put together with Legos. I think it’s definitely positive for their future, to further their education,” said Elgin Haynes of Youngstown, whose son, also Elgin Haynes, competed with the Horizon Science Academy team Saturday.
“It was exciting building Legos,” said Angelica Park, a seventh-grader at Girard Junior High. “I found one of my new passions.”
Gabby Coggins, a senior at Girard High School and a member of the RoboCats Robotics team, one of the sponsors of Saturday’s competition, said it’s good for high-school robotics members such as her to participate in the junior-high competition to spread the message about high-school robotics.
“We’re there to show them there is more to it than building Legos,” she said.
A second qualifier for the Austintown competition will be Dec. 7 at Warren G. Harding High School in Warren.