Over 1,400 Connecticut students ranging in age from 9-14 representing more than 150 different teams started the year’s First Lego League (FLL) Food Factor Challenge this past September with one hope – performing well enough to make it to the state championships. With so many students and teams, this year was the largest FLL competition in Connecticut state history providing the biggest challenge ever for the participants. The teams competed in six different regional qualifiers that took place the weekends of November 19 and December 3. From those qualifiers, 48 teams earned spots in the December 11 state championships. One of the teams that made it was .
The Connecticut FLL state finals were held in New Britain at Central Connecticut State University. Knowing that they were competing against all the top teams in the state, the coaches of the Bulldog Botz knew they had to perform better.
“We worked with the kids all week between the regional tournament and the state tournament to step up our game,” said Botz coach Larry Buono. “We knew we had to improve all elements of our performance to compete at the highest level.”
Practicing with the children every day and working late into the evening the Saturday before the competition in one coach’s garage allowed the children to show what they were capable of. The Botz finished 15th overall putting them in the top ten percent of all the FLL teams in the state – a fantastic result that left the parents and coaches especially proud.
“The kids did a great job,” said coach and Botz founder Jack Nork. “With this performance, our team is now one of the elite robotic teams in the state.”
As proof of how far the team has come, they also took home a special award – the IEEE Robotic Design and Innovation award. This is an award made by the IEEE – the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers – that recognizes outstanding achievement in design and innovation. The IEEE judge reviewed every robot at the competition and singled out the Bulldog Botz robot because of its simple, elegant and functional design as well as having an innovative quick connect system for the various attachments the team used to manipulate the challenges on the table.
“The coaches are especially proud of the children for this award,” said coach John Migliaro. “All the children had a hand in the design of this year’s robot, from the motor testing and pairing, to the positioning of the apparatus motor and light sensor, the orientation and positioning of the control brick, the design of the attachments and the attaching system itself. I can look at the robot and say which child had a hand in each of these features.”
The award includes both recognition from the IEEE and a cash prize of $200. The Bulldog Botz will be donating the $200 prize to the for the work the Lions did to help secure new computer workstations for the team this season.
There were many people that made this season a success for the Botz, including the middle school mentors, parents, the subject matter experts the team consulted for this year’s topic of food safety, the Lions Club and CDW-G as well as Linda Saffran, Dorothy Seaton and Tammy Velleca of the
While everyone is thrilled with the result, the coaches realize the most important thing here is to encourage the children to develop skills in science and technology – and have fun.
“Kids like competing and doing well but the biggest challenge the kids had was pushing themselves to do better,” said coach Bob Kane. “The great thing about FLL is that it’s not about beating other teams, it’s about beating the table, doing research, having the confidence to present in front of a judging panel and developing science and math skills along the way. The kids proved they could do that – and that’s why we’re so proud of them.”
If you’d like more information about the Bulldog Botz, are interested in volunteering for or sponsoring the team, or are interested in other robotics programs, please see the resource links below.
Bulldog Botz Website