That meant they were judged to be one of the best two teams in the tournament and will now advance to the FLL National Championship Tournament in Legoland in May.
Four other Santa Barbara County teams also competed at the LA Regional Tournaments (having also qualified at a previous tournament), The Flaming Pancakes (Peabody School) the LEGOnardo Da Vincis (Santa Barbara Homeschool Robotics Academy), The Dragoneers (Santa Ynez Valley Charter School), and The Sparabots (Orcutt Academy K8). The Foothill LEGO Lovers AND BEYOND! team consists of 4 Foothill School elementary school students and two alumnis who have gone to Junior High. The students – 4th graders Cami and Mia, 5th grader Brandon, 6th grader Albert, and 7th graders Chloe and Christian attend 3 different schools.
They will be the only Santa Barbara County team competing at the National level and will be a repeat for them, as last year they also competed at the National Championships against 63 other teams from around the world.
“It’s very unusual and hard for a team to make it to the National Level,” said coach Rip Chou. “And to be invited twice in a row is quite a rare honor. It’s really a testament of the hard work, passion, and dedication of the kids on the team. They have put in countless hours outside of our team meetings preparing for the tournaments.
“And I’m also excited that FLL is really growing here in Santa Barbara. Two years ago there were only 2 local teams, and now we have 9. I hope we get even more teams interested next season, which begins in August. Many elementary schools are now offering a LEGO Robotics class or club after school. We’ve got some great coaches and teams in Santa Barbara, and I’m sure Santa Barbara will be even more represented in future tournaments. FLL is also growing tremendously in Orcutt, Santa Maria, and the Santa Ynez area thanks to the extraordinary leadership and energy of Ty Fredricks and others.
FLL is open to students ages 9 to 14 in North America (9 to 16 for the rest of the world). This competition is organized by the FIRST organization that also holds the high school version of the competition, of which the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy is an active participant. FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. Over 20,000 teams throughout the world competed this year.
Every year, FLL releases a Challenge based on a real-world scientific topic. Each Challenge has three parts: the Robot Game, the Project and the FLL Core Values. The children participate in the Challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a playing field (Robot Game) within a set time (2½ minutes) and developing an innovative solution to a problem they have identified (Project), all guided by the FLL Core Values. Teams may then choose to attend a qualifying tournament to see if they can compete at the regional level.
In order to win the Champions Award and proceed to the National level, a team must present and perform well in all three parts of the FLL Challenge as well as the Robot Runs themselves.
The Foothill-based team learned to work together constructively to solve technical problems and learned how to perform under pressure, switching out parts and selecting new programs with the clock ticking and their teammates counting on them. They also learned how to quickly fix parts and develop engineering solutions in real time during the tournaments.
For this season, the budding engineers and innovators were asked to solve issues related to the theme Senior Solutions. The team came up with a concept of encouraging and rewarding seniors to be more active. Besides working on the robots, several of the team members help mentor other students in Foothill’s after school robot class, which has been supported by the generosity of local companies such as FLIR, Raytheon, Santa Barbara Bank and Trust, and Village Properties, as well as individual families.