Whiz Kids: Lake Ridge Middle School's Robotics Team Dominates
Lake Ridge Middle School Robotics team recently won awards.
Lake Ridge Middle School Robotics team, the Robot Wolves, beat out 27 other teams to take home the awards for Tournament and Robot Skill Champion on Feb. 19.
Now the Wolves will go on to represent their school at the district level on March 19. If they win the Excellence Award, they get an expense-paid trip to Disney World, where they will compete in the Robotics Competition.
Obviously, there is motivation to become the county champions.
The whiz kids behind Robot Wolves 5010A are eighth graders Jabari “Roy” Green, Wyatt Bahm, Abdullah El-Halaby, and seventh graders Anu Patel and Anna Pound.
Pound’s parents, Ron and Cindy Schmitt, coach the team. Cindy is a physical therapist at NOVA Fairfax Hospital and Ron is a computer scientist. Rebeccca Young is the Lake Ridge teacher who advises the team.
Robotics teams compete using Robots they design, making it a competition of programming and operating the robot.
Robots face off in a 12-foot by 12-foot playing field. The goal is for the robots to pick up rings and move them onto the ring post. The robot that can complete the task first wins for its team.
Whereas it sounds like a fair game, Pound explains how it was a David vs Goliath story of sorts.
“We were freaking out because there were robotics that were big and fancy," she said.
Meanwhile, Pound followed her parents’ advice, choosing to keep her robot simple with a basic design.
“Everyone can use it,” said Pound, “but not every one does.” Yet, her philosophy was, “The more complicated you get, the more chances you have that something will go wrong. We decided to make one that is small, fast and won’t break easily.”
During the first round of the tournament, the Wolves came in third, which allowed them to choose their alliance and remain in the running to be the champions. However, in the ring, their alliance teams’ robots broke down, leaving their robot the lone Wolf to carry its team.
Then the opposing team's robot started to fall apart, due to design flaws, leaving the Wolves to dominate.
“It’s not about the big and the bad; it’s about making it simple and doing what it needs to do. The basics,” said Pound, who was now confident in her team’s design choice.
Despite lessons learned about design, Patel believes they learned the most about teamwork, noting in the beginning, “We went through a lot of ups and downs."
Pound agreed. “We argued a lot at first, then it clicked, and we could read each other’s mind. We’re definitely more of a team now.”
Working as a team meant relying on every member. “Whenever we have the competitions, one person drives the arm, one drives the wheels and one coaches,” said Green
“Wyatt and I am do most of the programming,” said Pound “Everyone built something on the robot, but as we’re programming, they’ll practice driving.”
All of the Wolves have an interest in math and science, and most see themselves working in a field of applied sciences, such as medicine or engineering. But before all that, they hope to go to Disney World.
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