First Lego League awaits competition on Saturday

by | November 2, 2018 5:03 am

Last Updated: October 31, 2018 at 11:12 am

The clock was ticking a little louder on a recent visit to the Colleton Middle School headquarters of the Space Cougars and Smoky Stars.
The Space Cougars and Smoky Stars are the two middle school teams preparing for the Colleton Qualifier of First Lego League South Carolina. On Nov. 3, an estimated 30 First Lego League teams will gather at the Colleton Middle School to compete. The top qualifiers will move on to the east state competition at Charleston Phillip Simmons High School on Dec. 8.
Colleton County will have a total of 10 teams in the competition. Joining the middle school teams will be seven teams from the county’s elementary schools and a team established this year to represent the Colleton Memorial Library.
Space Cougars, explained team leader Tanya Infinger, takes its name from the school’s mascot and from the theme of this year’s competition, Into Orbit.
Team leader Tyler Kearse said that the Smoky Stars came from the outer space problem the team tackled for part of the competition — that’s the smoky. The stars portion of the team name was added “because we are,” he added.
Smoky Stars’ problem-solving explores the danger to the Earth’s ozone layer caused by the exhaust expelled from space ships.
The thickness of the planet’s ozone layer, Kearse said, is equal to about the depth of three pennies. Chemicals like those contained in the exhaust from spacecraft can punch holes in the ozone layer. Holes allow the sun to have a greater impact on the earth’s climate, resulting in everything from an increase in skin cancer to melting ice caps and climate changes.
The team’s solution is sending tungsten-carbide filters into space to collect those harmful chemicals before they can cause additional damage to the ozone layer. Eventually the chemicals would be put back to work generating energy.
The Space Cougars put their minds to work developing a lifesaving solution for astronauts that have become separated from their spacecraft. A special box located inside the astronauts suit would provide food, water for survival and communication equipment to contact rescuers.
Madison Scott of Space Cougars said team members were using cardboard to construct microphones and television cameras for use as props for their presentation on the problem they tackled. Their presentation will mimic a press conference announcing their innovation.
The team members, she added, are still contemplating a name for the box and continuing to contemplate a name for their robot. The original name, Scott said, was too long and difficult to pronounce.
Cayson Warner, part of the Smoky Stars mission tech team, explained that each team had to construct their robots out of Lego parts and then program the robot to accomplish certain tasks.
Noah Linder and Christian Singleton, Space Cougar’s programmers on the robot project, explained their work, especially the set of wheels sitting atop the robot. One task is the crater crossing — the robot has to open a gate at the crossing and the rules state that a portion of the robot has to make to the other side of the crater. The team accomplishes that task by having a loose set of wheels fly off the top of the robot and land on the other side of the crater.
Williams saluted the team members for their inventive way of following the rules for that task.
The obstacle course the robots have to maneuver tends to draw most of the interest in the daylong competition, but is just one of the tasks on which the teams are judged.
In addition to the problem-solving presentations, each team is required to offer judges a presentation on the core values phase of the competition.
Alexandria Stephens of Space Cougars explained how the project board for her team was being designed — with each member is writing a short sentence about what he or she has discovered in their work with the team.
“So far, I think we have done pretty good, exceptionally well in research and programing,” Williams said.
“Even though we have gotten grants, in order to sustain these types of program in the schools, we need to have local financial input from our basic businesses and industries,” said Ed Williams, director of CCMS’ Gateway to Technology Program. Those interested in helping fuel the educational program may contact Williams at the middle school or Jessica Williams or Christine Stroble at the school district’s administrative offices.

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