Robotics — Neither CSLA or MVMS teams earn awards, but hold their own at the FIRST LEGO League state championships

HILLSBORO — Two Newberg middle school robotics teams learned firsthand what it takes to match wits with the best students in Oregon recently, competing well but not earning any awards at the FIRST LEGO League state championship tournament Saturday and Sunday at Liberty High School.

The Unicorns of Fury from C.S. Lewis Academy and the Average Joes from Mountain View Middle School placed second and third, respectively, at their qualifying tournament in December, but saw just how high other teams set the bar at state, especially in the robot competition. by: SETH GORDON - Robo duo - C.S. Lewis Academy eighth-grade student Nathaniel Blair and sixth-grade student Braylon Russ oversee their robot during the final round of competition Sunday at the FIRST LEGO League state tournament at Liberty High School.

Both teams, however, discovered they weren’t out of their depth, either. Rather, they found themselves to be competitive as their highest-scoring rounds ranked in the upper half of the spectrum among the 60 teams competing each day.

Making Mountain View’s first-ever appearance at the state tournament, the Average Joes competed on Saturday, scoring 309 points at their best, with the Unicorns of Fury topping out at 258 on Sunday in their third consecutive trip to the finals.

“They had a blast,” MVMS teacher and team advisor Drew Gallagher said. “I think they realized that there was a really high level of competition throughout the state.”

CSLA teacher and advisor Pam Chambers said the Unicorns of Fury were disappointed not to earn an award after feeling they performed better at the state tournament than in qualifying, but that it was a quality learning experience being judged according to what were likely more stringent standards.

“The judges see you for 10 minutes and those 10 minutes are their impression of you,” Chambers said. “This time you see the judges’ ratings and they really picked into the performances and had some criticisms of what we did. We didn’t have any of that at the qualifying tournament, so that would have been helpful if we could have some criticism so we could improve.”

Chambers said her team was especially proud of its outreach project on earthquake awareness and safety, which has sparked the school to create a safety committee in the hopes of implementing some of their precautionary ideas.

After being mentored by then-Newberg High School students Tyler Krupicka and Anthony Farr a year ago, Unicorns of Fury team member Lydia Chambers said the team missed having an experienced voice in the room for guidance this fall. Pam Chambers has already asked Lydia and fellow eighth-grade student Nathaniel Blair if they would like to return next year in a mentoring capacity.

“I love that model,” Pam Chambers said. “They listened to him more than they do me.”

Gallagher said that the Average Joes encountered what it felt to be some controversial point deductions in some of its competition rounds, but that his students were respectful in asking for explanations from the judges.

“It was unique for them because we could really see them interacting with other people who had really good robots like they had a really good robot,” Gallagher said. “It was neat for them to be able to talk to other people about robots and building strategies.”

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