It was back in 2007 when a robotics team at Winterhaven School – the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) "focus option" school in the Brooklyn neighborhood – achieved world-wide acclaim by winning the FIRST Lego League International Championships.
Many of that team, always known as the "Pigmice", went on to Cleveland High School, and there began competing in the FIRST Robotic Championships.
Now, wanting again to have their own team as they continued to participate in robotic competitions, the students at Winterhaven started a new team, "The Amazing Walri": FIRST Lego League Team #39834.
Among their mentors were some of the members of Winterhaven's original "Pigmice" team, who are now busy in their 2020 "build season" at Cleveland High School – but who took time to help the new team at Winterhaven get started.
As for "The Walri"? Winterhaven team members admit they made up that fanciful pseudo-Latin pluralization of the word, "walrus" (Odobenus rosmarus) – the large flippered marine mammal.
"Our [new] robotics team went to the qualifying tournament at Catlin Gabel School, where we won "Best Core Values" – an award for demonstrating that we work well together as a team, and utilize innovation in our problem-solving," said spokesperson and Winterhaven eighth grader Frances Springgate.
Their "problem challenge" was finding a cost-effective and efficient means of
"improving the interactions between the transport of goods and the movement of people at the most problematic of rail crossings in Inner Southeast Portland" – along S.E. 11th and 12th Avenues. (A software company actually came up with a solution to that vexing problem, as reported in the February BEE.)
"From there, we moved on to the State tournament, held at Liberty High School, in Hillsboro," Springgate told THE BEE. "There, we won the first place 'Innovation Project Award for Research' for our project that we called, "The Crossing Conundrum"," she added.
"This is because we did a lot of research about this problem, including reaching out to both neighbors and experts on the topic, to find good answers and solutions," informed Springgate.
On the State level, "The Amazing Walri" came in 18th place among 57 school teams in the robotics game, after improving their overall score from 220 to 355 points during that competition on January 18 and 19.
Although they didn't move forward from that competition, Springgate said she and her Walri teammates value the program. "FIRST Lego League is important because it gives kids and teens hands-on experience in solving real problems in the community. We are actually doing real research, learning from experts, and building robust solutions for problems."
Several members of the team who will be attending Cleveland High in the fall said they plan to join the "Pigmice" team next year.
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