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Adrian robotics team competes in Arkansas

4-H Nobles County Humanoids created and programmed a robot and sent it up against other robots at the contest.

The 4-H Nobles County Humanoids Robotics team competes at the Razorback First Lego League Invitational at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The 4-H Nobles County Humanoids Robotics team competes at the Razorback First Lego League Invitational at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Submitted photo
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ADRIAN — On May 18, the 4-H Nobles County Humanoids robotics team began a 600-mile trip to the Razorback First Lego League Invitational at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

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The trip was made possible by generous donations from individuals, businesses and organizations in Nobles County. We want to acknowledge the Worthington Optimists, Early Risers Kiwanis, 4-H Federation, Compeer Financial, Heartland Mutual Insurance, Worthington Area Health Foundation, Kevin Prins, Deb and Mel Kroon, Adrian Bus Company, John and Peg Faber, Adrian Senior Center, and the Rushmore Central Hustlers and Grand Prairie Rockets 4-H clubs for their support. We also thank Adrian Elementary for letting our team meet at the school for our weekly meetings.

First Lego League is a global program for children ages 9-15 where students program a Lego EV3 or Mindstorms robot to complete a variety of tasks. Each year the competition has a different theme with different challenges. This year’s theme was Cargo Connect with a focus on transportation. Each team is assessed in the robot game, robot design, project, and core values rounds.

The 4-H Humanoids team started in fall 2013. The first year was a huge learning experience. Students started to learn how to program the robot and completed a simple research project. They scored only a few points at the robot table.

It began a nine-year journey that would lead to earning trophies in state competition, culminating this January with being overall champion in South Dakota FLL. The Humanoids choose to compete in South Dakota as tournaments are in Sioux Falls, much closer than Minnesota locations.

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As a team, we met 90 minutes a week beginning in September as robotics is just one of many activities with which team members are involved.

The 4-H Nobles County Humanoids Robotics team competed in May at the Razorback First Lego League Invitational at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The 4-H Nobles County Humanoids Robotics team competed in May at the Razorback First Lego League Invitational at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Submitted photo

Other teams, especially those competing internationally, spend hours each week on FLL as it is their main focus. We are proud of how much we have accomplished this year with our limited time.

For the 2021-22 season, the Humanoids had five team members — Jocelyn Horn, Kaylee Taylor, Aeryal McInnis, Damon John and Kaitlyn Taylor. Josh Horn, after aging out of the program, joined the team as a youth mentor. Monica Horn was the lead coach with Sherrilyn Klaassen and Rachel Snyder helping as assistant coaches.

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After an overnight stay in Joplin, Missouri, the team arrived on the University of Arkansas campus on May 19. We met our alliance partner team from New Jersey and worked to decorate our joint pit, an eight-by-eight display area. After a coaches meeting and practice runs at the robot table, it was time for the opening ceremonies at the outdoor Chi Omega Greek Theater.

Eighty teams from around the world were ready to compete. In addition to introducing each team and judges, national anthems were played for each team’s home country. Thirteen international teams from South Korea, Australia, Japan, Israel, Spain and Canada were in attendance. The energy and excitement were incredible and our team was honored to be included in this group.

Friday dawned and competition began at the student union. Each team was judged in four areas.

The first area was the innovative project focused on transportation of cargo. The Humanoids chose to look at danger zones around buses and how to make them safer for students. We investigated and created a model using short range trackers. Other teams developed sophisticated plans including patents and one team was even beginning production on their invention in the next month.

We were amazed at the time and effort that went into all of these projects. It was neat meeting other teams and learning about their diverse projects.

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When Kaylee was asked what she will remember she said, “I enjoyed meeting the other teams.”

The 4-H Nobles County Humanoids Robotics team competed in May at the Razorback First Lego League Invitational at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The 4-H Nobles County Humanoids Robotics team competed in May at the Razorback First Lego League Invitational at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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Another area of competition was robot performance, in which judges evaluate the programs, attachments, strategy and the process each team uses for its robot.

Our robot is small and simple compared to many of the other teams. We added attachments of a robotic arm and a pusher to our robot “Bob.” We also learned how to program more efficiently and accurately using the color and touch sensor. This year we documented our engineering design process better. While this is still not our team’s strength, this is the area that we had the most growth in this season.

This year was a building year for Trojans Robotics, focused on restoring the program after the COVID-19 pandemic drove robotics and most extracurriculars to a screeching halt for a year or more.

The team’s favorite part of competition is core values. This is not assessed in just the judging room, but throughout the competition. FLL core values include discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and fun.

FLL promotes gracious professionalism as “a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community” (firstinspires.org). Through the season the team did weekly core values challenges and talked about how we use these values in both FLL and in daily life.

“It was fun seeing a bunch of people around the world with the same gracious professionalism and enthusiasm as us," Aeryal stated at the competition.

The judging day concluded with three robot runs. This is the most exciting and visible part of the competition. Teams have two minutes and 30 seconds to complete as many of the robot challenges as they can.

Even though our robot is small and has simple attachments, we finished the day ranked 47 of 80 teams. Our robot had a few hiccups, which the team troubleshooted at practice tables between robot runs.

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Our best run was 325 points. The winning team had 680 points with many different attachments which they switched out during the match.

Humanoids Compete
The 4-H Nobles County Humanoids Robotics team competed in May at the Razorback First Lego League Invitational at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Submitted photo

“It was fun to see just how creative all the teams were in both the project and the robot game,” said Josh.

After a long day, Friday night ended with a carnival and talent show. It was fun interacting with the other teams. We were also thrilled to learn that the Humanoids was one of 30 teams earning a callback in the core values competition on Saturday morning.

“Even though the days were very long we all had fun,” Kaitlyn said.

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Saturday began with callback judging. Team members shared how they use these values in FLL and their daily lives. The day passed quickly with two more robot runs and cheering on other teams.

The final event was a crazy alliance robot tournament where two teams share the table for 90 seconds to accomplish as much as they can. The energy and fun was terrific.

“Participating in all the activities, including the carnival and alliance challenge, was such a fantastic and memorable experience,” Jocelyn said.

Sunday’s closing ceremonies were outside at the amphitheater on a chilly sunny morning. All participants were given a medal and a team participation plaque.

“It was a great learning experience," Damon said.

While the team was disappointed to leave without any awards, participating at the Razorback Invitational was a rewarding experience which will not be easily forgotten by team members and families.

Thanks again to all who supported the 4-H Nobles County Humanoids on this incredible learning journey.

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