ADRIAN — The Nobles County 4-H Robotics Team — the Humanoids — earned a first-place trophy and a seventh-place finish in South Dakota’s First Lego League state competition last Saturday at Augustana University in Sioux Falls.
The eight-member team placed first in their research project, which involved the study of the Rushmore City Park and ways it could be improved. The seventh-place finish (of 31 teams) was garnered by their robot performing specific tasks during competition. Taking the best of three “runs,” their robot racked up 320 out of a maximum of 375 points — putting them in a three-way tie for seventh place.
“This year’s theme was City Shapers — it was about rebuilding your community,” said Jocelyn Horn, a five-year member of the Humanoids. The team’s project included designing a wheelchair-accessible teeter-totter for the park.
“(The project) was supposed to be based on a playground, so we chose our park in Rushmore,” added Brookelyn Oddson, a first-year member of the team. “Our park is really worn down, and we figured out a solution to make it accessible for handicapped people.”
Team member Damon John presented the idea of an accessible teeter-totter, and the group worked together on a design. They had limited time to develop their creation, considering the project wasn’t started until after their state qualifier contest in mid-December.
The Humanoids are coached by Monica Horn, assisted by Sherrilyn Klaassen. Both work for Adrian Elementary School — Horn as a third-grade teacher and Klaassen as librarian. The group began prepping for the robotics season last September, meeting for two hours every Tuesday night in the art room at the elementary school. Team members hail from Rushmore, Worthington, Lismore and Adrian.
Together, they worked on the three components to the First Lego League contest — robot programming, research project and core values. The latter involves giving teams a task and then being assessed on how they work together as a team, whether they value each other’s opinion and how they function as a team.
“It’s a huge skill for real life — how to work with different individuals,” said Monica Horn.
Each team member brings different strengths. Joshua Horn, for instance, loves programming the robot. He’s been on the Humanoids for seven years, and this was his last year of competition. The First Lego League is open to youths ages 9 to 14.
Damon John, the only other team member to say programming the robot was his favorite part of First Lego League, will have some big shoes to fill as he continues with the program in the future. At 12, he has at least a couple of years left to participate.
Meanwhile, most other team members said it was either core values or the research project that ranked highest for them.
“I like every aspect of (robotics),” said Jocelyn Horn. “It teaches you different skills you need your whole life — public speaking, learning to be a leader and a follower, and just teamwork in general.”
The Humanoids team formed seven years ago. A financial contribution from Early Risers Kiwanis back then helped Nobles County 4-H purchase an EV3 robot, which team members affectionately call Bob. In the years since, Nobles County 4-H has provided the necessary funding to keep the Humanoids going.
“Each year we have to buy the Lego kit to be able to do the different actions,” said Monica Horn. “4-H pays for all of our competitions, kits and supplies.”
The robot parts they have accumulated from kits can be reused from year to year.