For the second year running, a Smithers robotics team is the provincial FIRST LEGO League champion.
FIRST LEGO League is a guided, global robotics competition that challengs kids between nine and 16 in research, problem solving, coding, and engineering.
The competition has four parts, a robotics game and three judging sessions, which reflect the core values of FIRST: discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and fun.
This year’s theme was “City Shaper.”
In the robotics game teams must complete predefined missions with an autonomous robot they have built out of specialized LEGO pieces and programmed themselves. Missions included actions such as raising flags, moving various boxes around, constructing buildings and clearing a traffic jam.
The teams were also required to complete an innovation project around sustainable cities. For each mission completed within a two-and-a-half minute period, the teams score points.
In the three judging sessions the teams are evaluated for their adherence to the core values, their innovation project and their robot design.
Since August the Smithers team, dubbed First Order, comprising Marley Telles, Amelie Telles, Piran Beck and Jaden Apperloo, along with team mentor Lyra Telles and coaches/parents Nick Telles
and Haidi Telles have been competing in qualifying tournaments culminating in a trip to Victoria for the provincial championship.
In Victoria, the Smithers team came in second in the robotics game, but won the overall competition on the strength of the judging.
The team’s innovation project was a net-zero emissions, self-sustaining building that included elements such as an integrated greenhouse and hydroponic towers that allowed the residents to grow all their own food.
They called it “together”ment building for Town of Groundbreaking, Terra-Friendly, Hydroponic, Renewable, Modern, Net-Zero Tenants (TGTHRMNT), a play on the traditional “apart”ment building.
Lyra said she felt the win was based on preparation.
“We spent a lot of time on our judging presentations to make them super-nice and I guess that just carried through to the judges,” she said.
Marley, a senior member of the team said it was exciting to win and an all-round wonderful experience.
“It was amazing,” Marley said “The entire competition was very friendly and their was great sportsmanship so everyone was helping each other out and talking… it was very supportive of each other and [at] the end everyone just clapped for you and it was really nice.”
The provincial win garnered the team an invitation to the world championships, as it did last year.
In 2019, they were not able to go because the Telles family had just relocated to Smithers from New Mexico and the logistics were overwhelming, said coach and proud mom Haidi Telles. This year, however, they plan to make it to Houston, Texas April 15 to 18 for the worlds with a little fundraising effort.
“It’s a cool opportunity,” she said. “We’re representing B.C. and Canada at this international competition, it’s pretty cool.”
It comes at a significant cost, though. Haidi said a preliminary estimate is in the $15,000 range based on flights for all the team members and coaches plus hotels.
She said they haven’t entirely worked out how they will manage it, but they have been getting support from the Bulkley Valley Collaborative Learning Society and are looking for sponsors.
They will also be starting a GoFundMe campaign.