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State College Kids Prepare to Compete at Futuristic World Robotics Festival in St. Louis

by and on March 30, 2013 12:49 PM

An amazing group of whiz kids is heading to St. Louis to take part in an exciting robotics competition. State College Area Robotics first tasted success at the FIRST Lego League tournament. Now the youngsters are training to compete against teams from across the world in the FIRST Robotics World Festival in late April.

Jen Dangelo, coach of State College Area Robotics (SCAR), started the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League (FLL) team three years ago after the coach of her daughter Sarah’s first team moved.

“She still really wanted to do it so I stepped up to coach,” she said. “And then we found the others.”

SCAR consists of Sarah Dangelo, 15; Ruthie Dangelo, 13; Katelyn Servey, 12; Gracie Dangelo, 12; Rachel Dangelo, 10; and Ben Servey, 11.

Each FLL team, Jen said, must have three to 10 members between the ages of 9 and 14. She said 15-year-olds still count, however, if they are 14 at the start of the FLL season, which is in the fall.

SCAR practices two to three days per week, Jen said, for two to three hours at what the team called “a sport for the mind.”

This year’s theme for all FLL tournaments is Senior Solutions, which is supposed to “improve the quality of life for seniors by helping them continue to be independent, engaged, and connected in their communities” according to the FLL website.

SCAR competed in the Southwest/Central Pennsylvania Championship Tournament at St. Francis University in December.

“It was a new competition this year,” Sarah said, “so it was pretty small.”

Out of the 11 teams that competed, SCAR received the grand champion award.

Due to their success in December, SCAR was invited to the FIRST Robotics World Festival April 23-26 in St. Louis. The tournament will feature teams from across the United States as well as from other countries.

Each team works on their senior solutions project before going to St. Louis, Sarah said.

For their project, SCAR members chose to design a dresser equipped with a bottom drawer that lifts out and is powered upward by a motor. This design, the team said, prevents potential injury to senior citizens who need to bend over to get clothes.

“It could do with anything that had to do with helping seniors,” Ruthie said. “One of the couple that we came down to that hadn’t already been invented was the dresser with the drawer that rose up.”

“It took us a while to figure out how we could actually get the design to work,” Sarah said. “Our design that we showed at our last competition included two motors, which would be more complicated to build. Now that we’re starting to build, we think we found something that will work with just one motor.”

Along with presenting their individual projects, each team will participate in the robot game as well as give several presentations to the judges.

“We give a presentation on how we designed our robot and we also give a presentation on the FLL core values and how we applied them throughout the season,” Sarah said.

According to the FLL website, the core values are “we are a team, we do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors, we know our coaches and mentors don't have all the answers; we learn together, we honor the spirit of friendly competition, what we discover is more important than what we win, we share our experiences with others, we display gracious professionalism … and we have fun.”

The robot game takes place on a 4-by-8-foot table. Each team is assigned a table that has various missions or tasks made out of Lego’s on it for the group’s robot. The robot must complete as many missions as it can in a certain amount of time.

“They’re all based on the senior solutions theme,” Jen said. The missions each team’s robot needs to do include lifting weights, throwing balls to knock down bowling pins, and lifting up medicine bottles.

“We use a sensor (on the robot) that looks for green,” she said. To do this, the team programs what the robot needs to do and look for and then download it to the robot, she said.

SCAR’s next steps, Jen said, include tweaking their presentation from the tournament in December and actually building the dresser with the rising bottom drawer.

“As it gets closer there’s always crunch time and getting our projects ready and rehearsed,” she said. “In April we’ll be meeting more to kind of get those presentations put together.”

Teams are assigned a certain amount of points based on how they do in each round, the members of SCAR said, which means each team competes against all the others.

“It’s our score versus everybody else’s score,” Sarah said.

If all goes well for SCAR, they could win the Global Innovation Award, which would allow the team to develop their dresser with a motor-powered rising drawer into an actual product.

“Because there are so many good ideas out there, there’s the contest through (FLL) to help make the product and to help develop it and sell it,” Sarah said. “The winners receive help from a few different companies to develop their product.”

SCAR members said they are excited to go to the World Festival in St. Louis and see what the other teams came up with.

“I think it’s going to be a whole lot of fun because it’s not just FLL,” Katelyn said. “You get to see what (the other age groups are) doing and you get to see what other countries think of.”

For more information on SCAR, visit https://sites.google.com/site/statecollegearearobotics/home.



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Brittany is the staff writer for The Centre County Gazette.
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