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A.R. Rucker teams prep for state contest

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By Jesef Williams

Some local students have been using Lego building blocks to learn more about technology and their environment.

A.R. Rucker Middle School has fielded two teams that are participating in this year's South Carolina FIRST Lego League Robotics Challenge.

FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Each team had to build and program a robot that can complete various tasks in pit areas that tie into energy use. This year's theme is Power Puzzle.

A.R. Rucker Middle's two teams are called the Hot Robots and the Yellow Jackets.

The teams direct their robots to complete about 15 missions in the competition pit.

For instance, the students had to program their robots to move toy power lines and wind mills to areas along a grid that would provide the most energy to residents. Dams have to be placed against bodies of water, too.

Most of the robot parts, as well as the grid props, consist of Lego blocks.

"The idea of building a robot was intimidating, but it's not as bad as you think," said Allison Moore, a member of the Hot Robotics team. "I never knew you could do all this with Legos."

The groups also had to complete a study on a local building to see how it could use energy more efficiently. They are judged on teamwork, presentation, robot design and completion of the missions.

In September, the students began building the robots, which have wheels, a battery and a timer, which determines the length of time it can travel along the grid. The robots' bodies consist mostly of Lego blocks.

In December, both teams placed high enough at a regional competition in Florence to move onto the state competition, which will be Feb. 16 at Clemson University. Between 70 and 80 teams are expected to attend.

In each of the last two years, a team from A.R. Rucker Middle has finished second in the state competition.

Hot Robots team members are Carley Adams, Kimberly Ghent, Isis Parker, Amber Pelham, Allison Moore and Emily Moore.

Yellow Jackets team members are Malik Gordon, Arianna Holloway, Brandon Newton and Mischa Soekoro.

Team coaches said the projects give students a better understanding of science and mechanics. Creativity and principles of teamwork are stressed as well.

"Robots is not all about competition - it's about teamwork and helping others out," Soekoro said. "It's a lot of fun."

Contact Jesef Williams at 283-1152 or jwilliams@thelancasternews.com