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Draper Team Earns High Honors at LEGO League State Championship

Mar 09, 2016 10:43AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]

Draper - A group of future engineers took high honors at the LEGO League state championship. The Draper-based team, called Bricktorrent, consists of five girls and two boys. The team qualified for the state tournament after winning at the regional competition. The team won in both the design of its LEGO robot and the project it developed. 

LEGO League is a robotics competition using LEGOs as the building materials. Each year, the national competition announces the theme the competition will be based around. This year, the theme centered on waste and recycling. 

“The teams compete on a 4-by-8-foot board with pre-set tasks. The robot has to solve the tasks,” Michel Bohn, the coach of the Bricktorrent team, said. “There is a base where the robot starts. Once it leaves that base, it has to be autonomous. If you have to go and touch it to fix it, you lose points. It’s important for the robot to be self-aware.”

The tasks for this year included the robots having to sort LEGO waste into what is deemed recyclable and what isn’t, clean polluted water and other similar tasks. Bricktorrent’s robot, named “Tortellini,” was really good at running the sorter, a complex task where the robot turned a hopper in order to sort the recycling from the waste. 

The board is only one part of the competition. Another part is the project. Because the theme this year dealt with handling garbage and recycling, the team had to develop a project that would solve an issue related to that theme. The team designed and built a smart garbage can. The garbage can, affectionately called “Scrappy,” only gets picked up by a garbage truck when it’s full. 

“It emits sound waves from the lid and depending on how long it takes for them to bounce back determines how full it is,” Bohn said. 

The idea behind the smart garbage can is to reduce unnecessary trips by the trucks and thereby reducing carbon emissions. 

The third part of the competition is called Core Values. This part consists of a presentation given by the group, and a judge determines how the team worked together as a team. 

“The team values include being innovative and enthusiastic problem solvers,” Bohn said. 

Bohn said while the group has won awards for its robot design and its project, they struggle with the Core Values presentation. 

“The Core Values is something we’re still trying to figure out,” Bohn said. “We need to figure out what is important to us and incorporate that better into our presentation. We’re also taking the advice from the judges.”

The Draper team came together after Bohn was a judge for First Robotics, a similar program for high school schools which use metal and plastic to build their robots.

“I judged for a number of years,” Bohn said. “My daughter [Gretta] would come with me to the events. She’d see these robots do amazing things.” 

One of the things Bohn likes about the LEGO League program is it offers a leadership role for everyone in the group. 

“They come up with different roles for a lot of different talents. Some come up with ideas. Some come up with presentations. Some just take pictures,” Bohn said. “We have a diverse team of different ages and gender. They all get along really well, and it lets us have fun.” 

While Bricktorrent did not qualify to continue on to the national championship, their robot was chosen to be on display at the South Towne STEM Conference to represent all of LEGO League. 

Bohn said the team will find out in the spring what the theme will be for the next competition. Regionals will begin in the late fall.

“It’s really exciting to see the kids get so involved,” Bohn said. “They keep doing so much better. I’m really proud of them.”