Austintown hosts competition

AUSTINTOWN – Circuits were completed, robots were commanded and tasks performed Saturday during the Lego League District Tournament.

Austintown Middle School hosted the first district competition and made a few new friends as it welcomed 10 Ohio teams.

“They performed very well,” said event coordinator and lead mentor for the Austintown Mad Scientists Andy Yantes. Even though his team won’t be advancing to the state tournament in February, Yantes said they haven’t shown any signs of disappointment.

“They get over it real quick. One of our core values is, ‘It’s not what we win, it’s what we learn,'” he said.

Placing first in the competition was team 10005 Winds of Venti; second place went to the Lake Center Christian School Thunderbolts; and taking the third spot was team 9267 Slightly Different.

Yantes put a new twist on the event by incorporating a STEM Expo, for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“It was just to get more eyes on STEM and keep the kids engaged all day … and so they see what they can do with STEM in their lives,” he said.

OH WOW! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology set up a display for students and their families to try to complete circuits. They also bestowed an additional prize to the first-place team: a pass for 15 to spend a day at their facility in Youngstown.

Isaac Robbins, a sixth-grader at Austintown Middle School and member of the robotics team Biohazard, spent a few minutes tinkering with the array of circuits prior to the competition.

It was Biohazard member and eighth-grader Nathan Spalding’s second year competing.

“We’re all really excited for today. We completely redesigned (the robot) since our last tournament. We took out the tracks and put in tires to make it faster,” he said, estimating that the change made the bot two-and-a-half times faster. The team even named the robot: Jeffrey.

“These kids work very hard. They’re always trying to better themselves and do more every time,” Yantes said.

Joseph Badger Legobotics coach Mike Forsha and eighth-grader Billy Nagel were preparing their robot, “Frostbot.” The bot got its name from this year’s task, the Nature’s Fury Project in which teams picked a natural disaster and innovative solution for the robot to solve. The Legobotics decided on blizzards.

“It’s an awesome robot. It has to go and accomplish the mission without any interaction from the kids,” Forsha said.

The team created numerous tasks for Frostbot to accomplish, but Nagel’s favorite involved the robot travel down a concourse with a guy, girl and water container and drop them all into a predetermined “safe zone.” There’s also a potential for extra points if the team gets the entire bot into the safe zone.

“It’s like the most funnest and it gets you the most points,” Nagel said.

No local competitors advanced from Saturday’s tournament to the state tournament Feb. 8 and 9 at Wright State University.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics teams in Trumbull and Mahoning counties are still preparing as they spend the next six weeks constructing and programming robots to accomplish the 2014 task for upcoming competitions.