Heritage robotics compete in Razorback

The Heritage Elementary School Robotics Team, named 15 Percent, stands at the track center on the University of Arkansas campus. (CONTRIBUTED)
The Heritage Elementary School Robotics Team, named 15 Percent, stands at the track center on the University of Arkansas campus. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Following their state championship in early 2015, the 15 Percent Robotics Team from Heritage Elementary School won a berth to the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Razorback invitational.

The University of Arkansas hosted the tournament.

At Razorback after four rounds, 15 Percent remained a contender with their robot, Jefferson, but discovered Jefferson’s memory had been wiped.

A referee allowed “a mad dash to the pits for a laptop … and Jefferson was back in action, zipping around like nothing happened,” David Assaf said. He and Sydney Assaf coach 15 Percent.

15 Percent’s score was within three percent of maximum points and earned tenth place. They won third place for robot programming.

Team members are sixth-graders Jeremy Anderson, Lauren Assaf, Emma Drake, Jackson Lanier, Kaya Lyons and Duke Yeom. Heritage teacher Laura Minor serves as FLL mentor.

Representing Alabama, 15 Percent convened with 72 champion teams in grades 4-9 from 31 states and 12 foreign countries, as far away as India and Japan.

“The Razorback invitational was a fantastic way to cap the team’s yearlong FLL adventure,” Assaf. Teams socialized, learned from each other and enjoyed a carnival, talent show and minor league baseball game. “The kids will never forget the experience of meeting and competing with teams from all across America and the world.

Teams were judged on a project presentation, the league’s core values and LEGO robot programming. “In the FLL robot game, each team’s robot autonomously navigates a table of LEGO models and manipulates them to accumulate as many points as possible in 2.5 minutes,” Assaf said.

During research, team members “uncovered the startling statistic that only 15 percent of American classrooms engage half of their students,” thus the team’s name, Assaf said.

15 Percent collaborated with local teachers and professors to offer a “project-based solution for improving social studies at Heritage.”

“Skills and friendships they’ve cultivated will take them far … into middle school and beyond,” Assaf said.

Bentley Systems Inc. employees provided a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) grant bundle to sponsor 15 Percent.

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