Eldersburg's Robo-Lions Prepare for International Competition, Earn Engineering Inspiration Award
The Robo-Lions make their debut at the FIRST program championship in St. Louis in April.
Twenty-seven local high school students spend hours upon hours in the back of the former London Fog factory creating, practicing and inspiring others.
They’re the Robo-Lions from Liberty High School and they are well on their way to making history in the engineering field.
The five-year-old team started practicing and building bots in their full-size arena in 2009 with space given to them by the BTR Capital Group.
The young students were awarded the Engineering Inspiration Award in March at their regional robotics competition in New Jersey. While they were there, the team qualified for the international championships starting on April 27 in St. Louis for the first time.
“I am very excited for the competition coming up, this is the first time the Robo-Lions have ever been to championships despite the fact that two years ago we were three points away from making it to the same competition,” said Alex Elliott, a junior at Liberty High School and public relations officer for the team.
“FIRST is a really great experience for anyone who gets involved in it because you soon learn FIRST is about so much more than just the robots,” said Elliott.
The team is mentored by science teacher Rose Young, who emphasizes that the FIRST competition is also about encouraging students to reach out and help others.
“We go and help area middle school teams and do community outreach talking to students about robotics. The goal of the program is not just to build robots the idea is to inspire kids to be in engineering,” said Young.
At the beginning of each “build season,” the teams are given a game that they must build a robot to complete. They are only given 6 weeks to build, test, program and design the robot to complete the game.
This year’s game is “Logo Motion,” a challenge in which players must place inner tube playing pieces shaped like the components of the FIRST logo on racks at the end of an arena. For bonus points, the robots deploy smaller “minibots” to climb a tower at the end of the game. The game is in honor of Jack Kamen, the artist who created the FIRST logo, which features a triangle, a circle and a square.
Getting to the competition though, comes at a price--$20,000 to be exact, not including the $5,000 registration fee. Young said the team was given a monetary award at its last competition but is now working hard to raise funds, including selling LED light bulbs.
But for the team, it’s not just about building robots and competing against others.
“The competition of FIRST is not what makes FIRST such a great thing to be a part of it’s the bonds of teamwork you make with everybody else because you not only compete against other teams but if other teams need help you help them,” said Elliott.