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LEGO warriors heading to state competition



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Front row left to right: Logan Collier, Aaron LaMagna, Hunter Young, Dean Peterson, Zach Kempner and Rory Boes. Back row left to right: Julian Montanez, Felix Garcia, Andrew Jones and Tommy Frank. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
March 30, 2011 - Like mad scientists from some old movie, they breathe life into inanimate objects.

Now, their combination of imagination and scientific skills has earned these amateur robot-builders a trip to the Robofest state competition April 16 at Lawrence Technological University.

Dubbed "Dance of the Jedi," this team of Lakeville Elementary and Oxford Middle School students took first place at a March 25 Robofest qualifying competition held at the Macomb Intermediate School District building in Clinton Township.

The Jedi team consisted of Lakeville fifth-graders Logan Collier, Dean Peterson, Andrew Jones and Zach Kempner, along with Oxford Middle School students Tommy Frank and Rory Boes. They were coached by parent/volunteer Lisa Kempner.

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Robofest is an annual autonomous robotics competition focusing on learning science, technology, engineering and math for students in grades 5-12 and college. Robofest challenges students to design, build and program robots to compete in various categories.

Using LEGO Mindstorms NXT, a programmable robotics building kit, "Dance of the Jedi" constructed Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker robots who did a "battle dance" for the "RoboFashion and Dance Show" category.

Lakeville's other robotics team, dubbed the "Robo-Cubs," also did quite well at the March 25 qualifying competition.

Consisting of Lakeville fifth-graders Aaron LaMagna, Hunter Young, Julian Montanez and Felix Garcia, this team took second place in the Game Competition category. They were coached by Lakeville teacher Cheryl Matas.

The Robo-Cubs designed, built and programmed a robot whose job was to stop an underwater oil spill by capping leaky pipes, retrieving a broken pipe assembly, removing a rock and measuring a length of pipe in millimeters.

Matas noted both teams have been practicing two days a week for a couple hours after school since early January.

"I think they did a really good job," she said. "Overall, I was very pleased with them."

Matas noted that OHS freshman Mike Johnson helped the teams program their robots. "He's been doing this with me since he was in third grade," she said."I think they did a really good job," she said. "Overall, I was very pleased with them."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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