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Osborne Firehawks win First Lego League regional

Members of the Osborne Firehawks, coached by Steven Clark at Osborne Middle School, pose for a picture after they won the First Lego League regional on Saturday at Radloff Middle School. (Special Photo)

Members of the Osborne Firehawks, coached by Steven Clark at Osborne Middle School, pose for a picture after they won the First Lego League regional on Saturday at Radloff Middle School. (Special Photo)

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A team from Pinckneyville Middle School, coached by Latasha McCord, works on improvements to their robot in between rounds on Saturday. (Special Photo)

DULUTH — Hundreds of students, coaches and parents met at Radloff Middle School on Saturday in one of the fastest-growing extracurricular activities among Georgia students.

With robotics teams of up to 10 members, the competition theme this time was “Nature’s Fury,” which dealt with the aftermath of hurricanes, fires and earthquakes, and each team had two and a half minutes to run a program.

Osborne Middle’s Firehawks won the First Lego League competition based on judging categories of robot design, creative element, professionalism and working as a team. About 50 volunteers and judges helped organize the event with Radloff Middle robotics coach Wayne Dail.

“It was better than I thought it would be,” Dail said of the first-time event after he first witnessed a similar event just before Thanksgiving at Grady High School.

After Osborne, second place went to the Battle Bots, coached by Christine Soler, a Boy Scouts from Suwanee, and third place was The Stormtroopers, coached by Erica Jong, an independent team. All three teams advance to the Super Regionals at Creekland Middle School in January. Creekland hosts another regional this Saturday.

Creekland robotics coach Bob Kraushaar said Gwinnett is one of the few counties who have multiple regional qualifiers. There was also a qualifier on Saturday at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center in Buford.

Two state tournaments are in late January at Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

At Radloff, there were elementary school, middle school, independent and neighborhood teams.

Dail said one reason Radloff hosted the event for the first time was the Meadowcreek cluster has a Georgia Tech grant called “Go STEM,” which looks to get the message of the science, technology, engineering and math fields out to students.

Kraushaar said recent growth of robotics competitions have “exploded” in the state, which now boasts about 550 teams, with the majority in metro Atlanta.

“The kids love it,” he said. “They don’t understand or realize that what they’re doing, they’re connecting with what they’re learning in school with real-world stuff. They’re using what they’ve learned in school to come up with a solution to a problem. It’s more than just robots.”

Yet the cream often rises to the top, he said.

“You can tell the way judging is laid out and decisions are made, the best teams do end up at the top of the heap and win the awards,” Kraushaar said.