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West Madison teams win Inspiration Award, state berth in LEGO Robotics

This LEGO Robotics team from West Madison Elementary School won the Inspiration Award in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) qualifier competition. (CONTRIBUTED)
This LEGO Robotics team from West Madison Elementary School won the Inspiration Award in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) qualifier competition. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – LEGO Robotics teams from West Madison Elementary School were frontrunners in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) qualifier competition in Arab.

The Frozen Trekkers team earned the Best Robot trophy and qualified to advance to the Alabama State Tournament on Jan. 25.

Coached by Jennie Horne, the Frozen Trekkers are Kyle Bratt, Jonathan Byers, John Digges, Jake Gaertner, Ethan Horne and Liam Kilpatrick.

In addition, the Swirling Rapids received the trophy for the Inspiration Award. Coached by Wendy Tibbs, this team includes Ankit Bandyopadhyay, Kelsey Hobbs, Gabriel Abashian, Sujay Jakka, Henry Nguyen, Charles Nguyen and Joe Mitchell.

Tibbs offered insight to why the team won.

“As our team began to take shape, the team members finally realized that everyone was working independently. Not very much work towards the mission was getting accomplished,” Tibbs said.

The students had good intentions and ideas, but they were boisterous at team meetings. “Everyone was talking over everyone else, and nobody was really listening to each other,” Tibbs said. “Sometimes, members weren’t demonstrating gracious professionalism.”

The West Madison team decided to use a prop that resembles a microphone. They nicknamed it their “talking stick.” Meetings became productive with the guideline, “If you don’t have the talking stick, you should be listening,” Tibbs said.

Vice versa, the student with the stick had everyone’s attention. “It really brought the team together,” Tibbs said.

At competition, the team took the prop into each judging room, using it as in practices. “A student from the team explained to the judges how it had come to be used and what it was for,” Tibbs said. “It paid off, because our team won a trophy for inspiration, which is awarded to the team that shows best teamwork.”

The lesson learned: respect for others, Tibbs said. “I know there are other stories that take place every day in our school, because of our great students, parents, staff and teachers.”

Tibbs tries to limit team size to seven students maximum. Robotics work has included research and development of products and services, especially related to care of senior citizens; computer programming; long-term problem solving; public speaking; and performance skills.

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