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Ready. Set. Roar!: 'Animal Allies' Focus Of Chappaqua Robotics Contest

Children and teens will be tasked with coming up with solutions to real-world problems such as food safety, recycling, and human-animal interaction at a FIRST® LEGO® League tournament to be held in Chapppaqua. Photo Credit: Contributed
The FIRST® LEGO® League Tournament, pictured, is coming to Chappaqua. Photo Credit: Contributed
Prizes are awarded at FIRST® LEGO® League tournaments. Photo Credit: Contributed

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – Eighteen teams of fledgling scientists and engineers will soon be roaring their way to victory -- or quacking, barking or squeaking -- in a FIRST® LEGO® League tourney at a Chappaqua school.

“Animal Allies,” its theme, is especially apropos; one of the competition’s four events requires the children and teens to make a presentation that addresses human and animal interactions ... and the problems that may arise from them.

Coyotes became a contentious local issue last year after several pet dogs were attacked, one of them fatally, by the woodland creature. And, in nearby Ossining, a rabid coyote bit two people and had to be put down by police.

The public event is set for Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Robert E. Bell Middle School, 50 Senter St.

Opening ceremonies are 9:25 a.m. The main competition takes place between 9:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. The award ceremony is at 2:45 p.m.

All of the FIRST® LEGO® League, and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League contests are based on solving real-world problems, such as food safety, recycling and energy, said event spokesman Alex Eichenberger Thursday.

The 12 teams (of up to 10 fourth- through eighth-graders, with one adult coach) first have to build, program and test a robot, using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology to solve a set of missions – in this case a tabletop maze.

Then, based on their own research and analysis, they have to make a project presentation (with a poster), and offer solutions to problems, such as coyotes, to a team of judges, Eichenberger said.

They also talk with the judges about their robots, citing the materials used and whether the gadget was reliable, or fulfilled its mission, he added.

The final event addresses “core values.” Judges interview the teams about how well they worked together and how they resolved conflicts if any arose.

First- and second-place awards are given for each event, and for best overall. Three teams in the semi-finals will advance to the finals.

There will also be six teams of kids ranging in age from six to 10 competing in a Junior FIRST® LEGO® League event the same day. That contest will also explore real-world problems and use basic engineering concepts to build a model out of LEGO® elements.

And what do the winners get, besides bragging rights? Pride and recognition, and, hopefully, a yen to continue learning about science, technology and engineering, said Eichenberger, who has coached many teams.

“It’s really an amazing thing,” he said, referring to the finals, “to see thousands of kids taking part. It’s an unbelievable experience that will be with them the rest of their lives.”

(The contest is being sponsored by FTC 9773 Robocracy, Hudson Valley FLL (FIRST® LEGO® League) and Westchester 4-H with assistance from the Chappaqua Central School District and the PTA STEM (Science, technology, engineering, math) committee.)

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