Heritage launches robots for qualifiers

MADISON – Out-of-the-box thinking has been critical for Heritage Elementary School students geared up for their robotics teams.

Jaime Mathison guides Civil Cats with fourth-graders Evelyn Davies and Elizabeth Peterson and fifth-graders Viswa Mandadapu, Amaan Musani, Arya Bellamkonda, Aadi Saxena and Parker Demirjian. Coach Eric Demirjian trained for robotic construction and programming.

Civil Cats’ opener was the FIRST LEGO League qualifier, hosted by Society of Women Engineers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on Nov. 15. “Students were judged on presentation of their robot, innovation and solving a STEM challenge,” Mathison said.

Their challenge, “City Shaper,” concerned architectural trends/issues and public buildings. Students identified a public space’s problem, proposed a solution and programmed a robot.

Civil Cats’ robot, Travis, competed in three various scenarios. “They faced stiff competition in the robot ring,” Mathison said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t move on to the state qualifier, but their pre-kindergarten innovation received top marks that made them extremely proud.”

Civil Cats shared their ideas for Madison’s new pre-kindergarten center reconfiguration at West Madison Elementary School with Superintendent Robert V. Parker and architect Frank Nola.

The ‘cats’ realized challenges to four-year-old students facing a full-size building. “The 66-year-old school may have facilities that need updating and (becoming) more ecofriendly,” Mathison said.

After interviewing Principal Dr. Daphne Jah and other professionals, Civil Cats focused on scaling down some building sections and playground pieces, while installing handicapped-inclusive equipment and a tricycle track. They will meet with Ranae Bartlett, Madison Board of Education President, Parker and Frank Nola to share their ideas.

This contest highlighted Civil Cats’ innovation and graciousness as a team. “A high-pressure competition for many middle-school-aged teams would intimidate most nine or 10-year-olds. However, Heritage Civil Cats’ leadership shined through. I’m so proud how they handled the competition, always encouraging each other and other teams and finishing strong,” Mathison said.

Gifted Specialist Rachel Gibbs coaches the Ram Robotics team with fifth-graders Isaac Coon and Emmett Armstrong and fourth-graders Addisyn Langford, Grant Jauken, Carson Forsyth, Emily Lynn, Eleri Sanders, Laya Gowder, Zachary Johnson and Harshtha Chander.

Ram Robotics’ qualifier on Dec. 7 is scheduled for Hampton Cove Middle School. They hope to advance to state-level competition in January 2020.

For their project, Ram Robotics chose the former, vacant Madison library. After researching current projects for Madison Planning Commission, students requested a meeting with Mary Beth Broeren, Dustin Riddle and Marc Jacobson.

The city is considering transforming this building into offices or a larger senior center. Gibbs’ students liked the idea for a center and designed a “Madison Perennial Community Center” with interesting activities for all ages.

Ram Robotics used Google Tools for Education to survey community feedback. They conducted Google Hangouts with architects about eco-friendly architectural elements for sustainable building.

“Students used LEGOs to build a model that exhibited renovations, such as a rainwater harvesting station, solar panels and large windows to control light and temperature,” Gibbs said. “They created a blueprint of the building’s interior and an event calendar.”

For their robot, Ram Robotics applied LEGO EV3 robotics programming and their own LEGO add-ons to complete missions on the LEGO table.

“Students gain many important executive skills through LEGO Robotics, such as setting and reaching goals, communication, collaboration and critical thinking,” Gibbs said. “Each new season presents new discoveries about the topic (and) each team member’s talents. It’s so amazing to watch students learn and grow together as a successful team.”

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