GIRARD – Months of hard work by teams of students from across northeastern Ohio were on display Saturday afternoon, as Girard High School hosted the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League regional tournament.
A large crowd of supporters filled the gymnasium for the awards ceremony, which ended with the Austintown Mad Scientists taking home the top prize.
Students aged 9 through 14 competed locally at the RoboCats regional, where 15 teams demonstrated problem solving skills, creativity and teamwork by building robots to complete a myriad of tasks.
The Mad Scientists, comprised of eight Austintown Local Schools students, won the judges over with a replica tank which completed an obstacle course.
David Varley III, 13, said winning the competition in his last year made all of the time and effort worthwhile.
“Honestly, it’s very emotional. I got to see my brothers and sisters come into this,” Varley said. “To be able to see the whole team compete and be a champion has been amazing.”
The team will now move on to the district tournament on Jan. 11 at Austintown Middle School.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” fellow teammate Daniel Varley said.
Each team is evaluated by judges in the categories of research project presentation, robot design and programming and core values.
Others moving onto the district tournament are teams Only Slightly Different, Error 404 Name Not Found and Got Wind.
While those moving on to the regional tournament celebrated the accomplishment, organizers explained just taking part in the process is rewarding for students and coaches.
The Lordstown Bot Kickers received awards in core values and points scored in the robot competition. Team coach Amy Domino believes the FLL provides a unique opportunity for students interested in technology.
“This really gives kids experiences in field that they may be interested in,” Domino said. “That’s really important, plus the core value stuff they get out of it. There is a research component to it.”
Meanwhile, Warren G. Harding High School will host 24 additional northeast Ohio teams for the Warren Delphi ELITE regional on Dec. 7.