Although the elite group of Huron Valley School District students competing in this year’s state LEGO championship, seven students and one teacher were lauded for their efforts that sent them to the event.
“They did an amazing job — between the research and their core values, they did an exceptional job,” said Jason Vallimont, a teacher at Muir Middle School and LEGO team mentor. “The kids were bummed out, but I felt they did enough to win an award.”
In November, Vallimont vowed he would shave his head if either of his teams took home a regional victory. The offer apparently worked, as Muir students clenched the regional competition, qualifying them for the state tournament on Dec. 1. Vallimont kept his promise.
“I usually offer an incentive – one team wanted me to shave my head, and one team wanted to make me into a human ice cream with a cherry on top,” he said. “The team that advanced wanted me to shave my head, so they buzzed me.”
Vallimont’s team competed against more than 48 others during the state’s FIRST®LEGO® League Senior Solutions Championship tournament. The league is one of four robotics based FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) leagues designed for students age 9 to 14.
Seven Muir Middle School 8th graders went to the competition, including Riley Morris, Noah Beattie, Suzie Harris, Brandon Woolman, Hunter Barnes, Chris Piestch and Aaron Kruskie.
Teams were tasked with the challenge of researching and presenting their own solutions to one of today’s most relevant topics: aging. The goal: find how to counter the effects of aging while maintaining a positive quality of life.
“Each team was given the challenge to find a senior citizen as a partner,” said Megan Rumble, career-focused coordinator for the school district. “While Jason’s team didn’t rank, they did well. His team was the only team that qualified in the district.”
“They had to identify a problem that seniors are experiencing and our team
chose Alzheimer’s disease,” Vallimont added. “They did research on their own and interviewed experts like, Dr. Cathy Lysach from Wayne State University, in charge of the School of Gerontology.”
Prior to the competitions, each team was assigned tasks of research and design to demonstrate problem-solving skills; creative thinking; teamwork; competitive play; sportsmanship; and sense of community. Missions included mobility, flexibility, balance, and memory. Teams programmed their robots to explore how seniors could remain independent, while staying engaged and connected in order to lead happy and healthy lives while facing the challenges of aging.
“The robot they built for competition this year had 2.5 minutes to get as many points on the board using sensors and LEGO Mindstorm software,” Vallimont said.
Judges at the competition based the results by scoring each team’s project presentation; robot performance; technical design and programming of the robot; and teamwork, with a consideration of the league’s core values.