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Needham teams participate in Lego League

Three Needham teams participated in the Western Massachusetts First Lego League (FLL) robotics state tournament on Saturday, December 17, and each walked away with a prestigious Judges’ Award trophy.

FLL is a dual initiative of inventor Dean Kamen’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization and the Lego toy company; per their website, the FIRST vision is to “transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

The annual tournament, for students in grades 4 through 8, tested the children’s technological skills by requiring them to build a robot and program it through an obstacle course. The teams each competed in a number of challenges, both technological and team-building. As a second major component of the competition, they also had to present a solution to a problem affecting their choice of animal. At the competition, the groups were interviewed by three separate panels of judges for their mechanical design, robot strategy, teamwork, presentation, research and professionalism.

Two of the Needham teams, the eighth-grade Technobots and the mixed-grade Technogirls, showcased their robots at the competition after qualifying at the regional event in Shrewsbury on December 3 and the sixth-grade Radioactive Hamburgers joined following the qualifying event on December 10 in Northborough.

At the state competition, the Radioactive Hamburgers, comprised of Zachary Brown, Noah Dooley, Daniel King, Adam Kuechler, and Dilin Meloni, won the first place Judges’ Award for inspiration, which was based on the presentation of project focused on saving honeybees. The Technobots, comprised of Rachel Bassin, Eli Brown, Alex Koppel, Anna Koppel, Owen Lipchitz, Sasha Malakov, and Trip Szewczak, won a first place Judges’ Award for their robot design. The Technogirls, comprised of Iris Bassin, Ariel Berk, Dana Freedman, Danika Lipchitz, Jessie Young-Paulson, Esha Rawat, and Libby Szewczak, won a second place Judges Award for their mechanical design.

“Everyone has the same general task, but the manner in which they approach the challenges are completely different,” explained Seema Meloni, one of the parent mentors for the Radioactive Hamburgers team. “The competition days are intense, but all of these teams have such incredibly strong spirit and work so well together,” added Meloni. “To be recognized for their work was extremely exciting - for both the students and their coaches!”

Technogirls coach Jillian Erdos added, “These competitions teach the kids about collaborating and everyone's strengths are highlighted at different times. Through this experience, the kids really appreciate the importance of cooperation, working hard, being flexible, and, most importantly, how to recover when something goes wrong.”

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