A ball is released and rolls toward six small bowling pins, knocking down each one of them.
As the people cheer and high five each other, the robot turns back toward the base and makes its way home.
This action is repeated a number of times during the week by the children on the FIRST LEGO League teams of the KEMET Robotics program sponsored by the 100 Black Men of Rome-Northwest Georgia.
Sometimes results aren’t the same and adjustments must be made with either the placement of the robot in the base or a change in the route downloaded to the robot.
The work and experimentation that have happened in the days and weeks prior to what may appear to be a simple task have been the foundation for a program that is gaining steam.
After taking home the Core Values Award and Judges Award the last two years, KEMET’s two FLL teams — a girls team named Queen-otics and a boys team called Supertonics 1 — finished first and third, respectively, in their divisions at the Atlanta regional last month.
They then competed at Saturday’s super regional competition at Clayton State University in Morrow where Queen-otics finished second and Supertonics 1 finished third out of 40 teams.
Both teams will now compete at the state competition at Georgia Tech on Jan. 26.
This year marked the first time any KEMET team has moved on past the region competition.
“We’ve known for the last few years that we were making progress,” said Greg Shropshire, program director. “Now we can tell people and show them what we have accomplished.”
The KEMET Robotics Teams began as a year-round robotics program in 2010 as part of the 100 Black Men of Rome-Northwest Georgia’s S.T.E.M. initiative, promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Following the core values and rules of the FIRST organization, which develops ways to inspire students in engineering and technology fields, KEMET also has teams that compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Challenge levels.
The FIRST LEGO League consists of children age 9-14 and each level progresses into the next one.
Each FLL competition consists of three stages.
The research stage has each team present a project as a solution to a problem that relates to the annual FLL theme handed down by FIRST. The technical judging stage sees members questioned about their project and research and the practicality of their solution, and the table stage is where teams take the programmable robot they build out of LEGO components out on an obstacle course.
Each team gets three two-and-a-half minute runs on the table to try and complete as many tasks as possible in order to rack up points.
“It can be quite daunting, and there is a lot of trial and error, but our kids have done a tremendous job,” Shropshire said.
He said an important aspect of it is when teams help each other by making suggestions and borrowing different parts.
“It’s really about that creative and collaborative work and the reward that comes with the collaboration,” Shropshire said.
Throughout the program, Shropshire said he has seen the personality and dynamic of each child become more prominent.
“I’ve talked to parents who have told me that their kids are shy. But when they’re here for a while you see them laughing and making friendships,” Shropshire said.
“It allows them to find themselves in a fun, meaningful way outside of the sporting arena.”