I’ve never met a kid who didn’t love to play with LEGO, but these kids take it to another level. Montclair’s Team Yobotics! received one of the two Champion’s Awards for its across-the-board excellence in robotics, research project and teamwork at the NJ First Lego League (FLL) state tournament on Saturday.
One of the proud parents, Richard Sperberg, explains the team’s project:
Team Yobotics! looked into stem-cell research as the most promising opportunity in biomedical engineering, approaching Dr. Treena Livingston Arinzeh of NJIT for guidance in the area. She explained that researchers don’t immediately know which “scaffolds” of stems cells are the best to work with. Team Yobotics! created a computer program for her group’s research that evaluates images of stem cells being studied. By quantifying the “stem-cellness” of the candidate scaffolds, the program now helps stem-cell researchers speed up their evaluation process by several days.
All of the Team Yobotics! members got started in FLL as part of the Renaissance Middle School robotics program. To this day they continue the affiliation by mentoring team T.O.R.N. of Renaissance and sharing fundraising events. Some team members also belong to the MHS robotics team and the coaches have mentored other middle and high school teams.
Two other teams from Montclair were among the 44 teams that qualified for the event, the all-girl Pink Robots and Glenfield Middle School’s G-Force. The top award was taken home by the Jaguars of Plainsboro. This is one of the years that the NJ champions do not receive automatic invitations to the FLL World Festival to be held next April in St. Louis. However, both the Jaguars and Team Yobotics! are being nominated to compete as FLL Core Value teams.
First Lego League conducts robotics competitions for students aged 9-14 in the U.S. and Canada and 9-16 internationally using Lego Mindstorms robots. The 2010 season began in September with the release of the Body Forward challenge, requiring teams to design and build a robot to score points on a themed field and to present a biomedical engineering solution to repair injuries, overcome illnesses and disabilities, and build healthier, stronger bodies.
(Photo by John Falcone. Front: Nick Kopelow; Next row: Sam Kimball-Sperberg, Richard Kopelow, Owen Mizrahi, John Falcone, Maggie Rosen-Filardo, Mete Erdi; Back row: Coach Rich Kopelow, Jackson Welles, Montclair FLL tournament director Monique Dituri, Coach Alev Erdi)