Members of the Cardozo Middle School (CMS) Robotics Team and Advisors were congratulated this past week at the Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) board meeting. The team was honored for receiving the Judges Choice Award for Perseverance and Positive Attitude at the First Lego League: Iron Patriot Fest Competition held at Beyer High School. This is CMS Technology Teacher and Team Advisor Nicole Strauss and the CMS team’s second year competing at the First Lego League.
“We are excited to continue the team long into the future though,” said Strauss. “The number of members varies each year, depending on how many students are able to attend the afterschool meetings and the Saturday practices and competitions. This year we had six team members, but only five were able to attend the competition.”
She said that the robotics team was a project that was created by former RUSD Superintendent Dr. Daryl Camp, who was passionate about the field of study. Strauss was asked if she would consider being the advisor of the new team and she took on the challenge. Since then the team was established with the collaboration of Camp, Strauss, and Greg Diaz, the current Riverbank High School Principal and former Vice Principal at CMS.
“He believed wholeheartedly in the importance of STEAM programs,” stated Strauss regarding Camp. “Our first year we were invited to compete at Google Headquarters in San Jose. Next year we will receive a new challenge mat, a new theme, and a mostly new team, as most of our students are in eighth grade. We hope to have some of this year’s team come back as mentors again next year as well.”
The team included captains, eighth graders Rilee Bruner and Katherine Tigert, team members Harveer Aulakh, Shane Newell, Coral Sherbine and two mentors from the high school, Hunter Collison and Jordan Gitmed.
They practice on a regular basis, with sessions that begin in August and then in October the meetings occur more frequently. The Iron Patriot Fest is the First Lego League competition that is held on a Saturday in November and is open to students in the Central Valley.
“The practice involves building the pieces for the practice mat, planning and designing a robot that can complete a variety of tasks on the challenge mat, and then coding the robot to do those tasks. It requires teamwork, dedication, perseverance, and requires students to be go getters,” explained Strauss. “The advisor’s role is as a motivator, and a guide, but is predominantly hands off. We can ask guiding questions but are encouraged to let the students do all the work.”
There are four parts required for the competition including robot design which she said that the judges look for creativity, quality, thoughtfulness to complete tasks, checking codes to determine if each student understood what they did, core values of the team that are most important, and the problem statement and solution. For the final part of the competition the students are tasked with creating the problem statement based on the theme of the year and then solving it, which requires research, writing, and something that showcases the solution.